How GOES Satellites Help Weather Forecasts and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers


Go is a game for two players that has been played for over 2000 years. It is a zero-sum, perfect information, partisan, deterministic strategy game in the class of chess, draughts (checkers), and Reversi (Othello). The rules are not complicated, but the complexity arises from the fact that each player has 181 black stones and 180 white ones on a board 19 squares wide and 19 deep. Many moves require more than one stone to play, and some require several turns. Adjournments and sealed moves are common, and there are several formal time control systems. Some systems envisage a single period of time for each player, while others differ on the protocols for continuation after that time allowance. Top professional games have official timekeepers.

The GOES satellites are in geostationary orbit 35,790 km (22,240 mi) above Earth, which allows them to continuously view the Western Hemisphere. They use sensors to observe electromagnetic radiation emitted by the Earth and its atmosphere in two different ways: visible light and infrared.

Observation data from GOES and other satellites is used to make weather forecasts, monitor hazardous conditions, provide early warnings of changing weather patterns, and track storm development and movement. This data is crucial to military and civilian radio wave and satellite communications and navigation systems, electric power networks, Space Station astronauts, high-altitude aviators, and scientific researchers.

Besides weather data, GOES observations can help improve aviation safety by monitoring volcanic activity and associated ash plumes at a higher temporal cadence than can be achieved using traditional satellites. The Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on GOES-16 has three times more spectral channels, four times the spatial resolution, and five times the scanning speed of previous GOES satellites.

This enables NOAA’s National Weather Service offices, forecast centers, and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers to better monitor ash plumes as they disperse and reduce the risk of airplane encounters. GOES’s unique ability to detect the presence of hazardous atmospheric phenomena and rapidly notify aviation operators provides critical safety benefits that have been demonstrated repeatedly in real-time during major aviation accidents.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at decoding GOES imagery yourself, there are plenty of resources available online to get started. This page contains links to free GOES and other data, as well as guides for setting up your own receiver. These guides will enable you to receive GOES images and other NOAA products on your own computer or home network. In addition to GOES, you can also experiment with EMWIN, which relays data from HIMAWARI-8 and other satellites. You can also find links to a variety of software packages for analyzing GOES imagery.