GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) have been observing the Earth since 1975 and providing continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions and solar activity. They are a vital part of NOAA’s Earth Science Division and have helped to improve forecasting capabilities. They also provide data that can be used to assist in search and rescue of people in distress, among other applications.
Unlike other satellites, GOES orbits over the equator and provides a single view of the planet. They are also known as geosynchronous satellites because they orbit at the same speed and angle that Earth does.
To monitor the atmosphere, GOES satellites use two types of electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by their instruments: long-wave infrared and short-wave infrared. However, not all of the infrared radiation emitted by Earth can reach the satellites because the oxygen, carbon dioxide, ozone, methane and water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere absorb the longer wavelengths of thermal infrared radiation. Scientists have developed instruments that can detect the shorter wavelengths of thermal infrared radiation, which are able to pass through Earth’s atmosphere.
This allows the GOES satellites to see weather and clouds in the atmosphere at all times. The satellites can also monitor solar activity and space weather, and they help to map lightning on the ground as well.
The first GOES satellite was launched in 1975 and began monitoring broad areas of the earth. Its sensors and system of computers helped to detect severe weather and improve forecasting. The GOES satellites are built by NASA and operated by NOAA.
They are named after a letter of the alphabet prior to launch and renamed once they achieve geostationary orbit, which is an elliptical orbit that is 222,236 miles above Earth’s equator. This allows the GOES satellites to maintain their positions over specific geographic regions to provide continuous coverage of that area over time.
GOES-R satellites are the most advanced operational GOES-class satellites and cover the Western Hemisphere. They include a higher-resolution imager, a multi-band sounder and an improved radar. They are able to detect the smallest changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and produce more accurate images than their predecessors.
These satellites also have new features that will allow them to better respond to rapidly changing weather conditions and hazards such as volcanic ash plumes. For example, ten-minute full disk imagery will enable NOAA National Weather Service meteorologists to monitor hazardous weather events and increase aviation safety.
Another benefit of these satellites is their fast temporal cadence, which means they can monitor a much larger portion of the globe in less time than previous satellites. This is critical in detecting swells and storms as they form. It is also important to quickly identify ice jams in the Arctic as they develop to prevent them from disrupting air transportation and to help keep people safe during ice storms and other winter weather events.
GOES-R satellites can be used to generate advanced radar maps, improve solar and space weather monitoring and help to better understand the impact of climate change on our planet. They are also being used to monitor the movement of hazardous winds.