GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) is a family of weather monitoring and forecasting satellites operated by NOAA. They have been in orbit since 1975, providing continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions and space weather to help improve forecasts and better understand long-term climate.
GOES is in a geosynchronous orbit that circles Earth at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation. Because they’re in this “sweet spot” of space, they can gather weather information as often as every 30 seconds in a hemisphere.
In addition to gathering weather information, GOES satellites detect two types of electromagnetic radiation that help scientists understand and analyze the environment around us. One is thermal infrared radiation, which is emitted by everything on the planet that is warmer than absolute zero (-273 degrees C).
The other is visible light radiation, which is emitted by everything that’s visible to our eyes. Combined with the other type of radiation, these two can be used to create images that show conditions on Earth’s surface.
Imagery generated from GOES data is displayed on satellites and on the internet. These images can be used to monitor changing weather conditions, as well as to find out about natural disasters or other emergencies.
Some of these images can be used to monitor the ocean’s weather as well. These images show how the water is moving, how much of it is above or below sea level and other conditions that may affect people’s lives.
Using these images to track weather changes is important for both emergency management and for understanding the effects of climate change. For example, the data gathered by GOES can be used to detect flooding and storm surge.
The GOES satellites have also provided valuable support for search and rescue missions by transmitting distress signals to land stations and aircraft. They are also essential for air traffic control and weather prediction.
These satellites are designed to provide high-resolution, half-hourly images of the Earth’s atmosphere and the oceans. The first GOES satellite was launched in October 1975. GOES-3, a spin stabilized satellite, was followed by GOES-4 in 1980 and GOES-7 in 1986. The GOES-I series was the next generation of geosynchronous satellites and featured improvements in instrument technology, including the Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer, which enabled scientists to measure temperature, moisture, and cloud altitudes.
A GOES satellite can also be used for a variety of other purposes, such as monitoring the sun’s activity or searching for people in distress. These satellites have been instrumental in helping to save lives and reduce the costs of disaster recovery, as well as contributing to climate research.
GOES satellites are designated with letters before they are launched and renamed with numbers after they achieve geostationary orbit. GOES-C, -D, and -E became GOES-1 to -F; GOES-E became GOES-2 to -N; GOES-F became GOES-8 to -R; and GOES-R, -N, and -U were added as a fourth generation of geosynchronous satellites, extending the operational GOES fleet through 2036.