The GOES series of weather satellites have been used for decades to deliver timely, accurate, and detailed forecasts. But with the new GOES-R weather satellites, Lockheed Martin is helping the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide more accurate and faster forecasts than ever before.
GOES satellites orbit the Earth in a geosynchronous (Earth-orbiting) orbit and remain in the same position over the Earth’s equator. They can observe the same area on the Earth’s surface every half hour, a key feature that allows them to monitor weather conditions and help predict severe storms.
In addition to observing the Earth’s surface, GOES satellites can also detect and track clouds by detecting infrared radiation from water vapor in the atmosphere. This enables them to measure cloud top temperatures and moisture levels, and determine the extent and shape of the atmospheric thermal structure that makes clouds appear brighter or darker than they actually are.
This is important because it can help meteorologists make better decisions about whether or not to issue a weather warning, such as a tornado warning, for a specific location. Additionally, GOES can provide an early look at the development of a hurricane as it approaches land.
To keep track of these changing conditions, GOES uses a combination of sensors and data relays to gather information from thousands of ground stations all over the world. Its mission is to provide critical support for weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorology research.
There are two GOES satellites that monitor the United States: GOES East, which is located above the equator at longitude 75 degrees west, and GOES West, which is located above the equator in the Pacific Ocean at longitude 135 degrees west.
GOES-East imagery is generated from a suite of six instruments including the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, which produces images in 16 different wavelengths or bands. In addition, GOES-East also has an instrument for measuring space environment magnetic fields called the Space Environment In-Situ Suite or SEISS.
Another important instrument on GOES-East is the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, or GLM, which provides lightning detection and monitoring at a near-uniform spatial resolution of 10 km across North America. GOES-East also features a Sun Ultraviolet Imager, or SUVI, for monitoring the sun’s ultraviolet light and understanding solar irradiance in the upper atmosphere.
A third set of GOES-East instruments is the Enhanced Infrared Imaging Radiometer, or EIRIR, which measures infrared radiation from the atmosphere, including the water vapor in the air and the cloud tops. This enables GOES-East to detect changes in the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, which can help predict if there will be rain or snow on the ground or at a particular location.
This information is then processed with a set of algorithms that identify and categorize clouds, and then produce the corresponding image. These images are useful for determining the speed and direction of clouds and helping meteorologists to determine how thick or thin they are.