The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)


The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) supports weather forecasting and severe storm tracking. Its primary payload instruments include an Imager that senses reflected light and a Sounder that provides data for vertical atmospheric temperature profiles. These instruments scan Earth and provide weather and meteorological information to scientists, researchers and users worldwide.

GOES satellites are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They orbit Earth in a geostationary (geosynchronous) position, which is directly above the equator. This allows for a full disk view of the Earth. Currently, there are sixteen spectral bands that are used to collect data on atmospheric conditions. Each band has a different temporal cadence. Having improved temporal resolution will allow meteorologists to better monitor ash plumes that can form when volcanoes erupt. GOES’s rapid temporal resolution will also improve air travel safety.

In addition to observing the Earth, GOES is important for monitoring volcanic activity. In 1977, GOES-2 and GOES-3 were launched from Cape Canaveral, FL. After these launches, the next five GOES satellites were built under contract by Space Systems/Loral. GOES-8 was the last spin stabilized geosynchronous satellite and provided the first GOES I-M series.

GOES is responsible for providing real-time imagery of storms and tropical cyclones. Weather forecasting is conducted by the National Weather Service, but the Satellite provides weather and meteorological data to a variety of research centers. Additionally, the satellite provides continuous imagery of the United States and the Atlantic Ocean.

GOES also provides real-time observation of solar irradiance and ozone. This is important for meteorologists since they use sunlight to determine the type of cloud. For example, a thin cloud has less albedo and thus reflects less light. On the other hand, a thicker cloud has higher albedo and reflects more light. GOES also carries instruments that can sound for vertical thermal structures.

GOES is a critical part of NOAA’s meteorological research and development programs. Data collected by the satellite is used by numerous research groups to better understand the land and the climate of the United States. GOES also provides data for commercial weather services, as well as the military. GOES data is distributed by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

GOES is a vital tool for environmental applications. Data from GOES is used to enhance the capabilities of numerical weather prediction models. Other important applications include analyzing climate change, determining if and when storms develop and tracking tornadoes. GOES is also a valuable source of information for volcanic ash advisory centers. GOES data is used by researchers at universities and government agencies.

GOES satellites are also crucial to the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center, Storm Tracking Center and Integrated Ocean Observing System. Their observations help meteorologists track the development of storms and their subsequent progression. GOES also helps the weather forecasting community by providing a more accurate estimate of precipitation and snow levels.

GOES has also helped develop the ProbSevere LightningCast model, which uses GOES ABI data to predict the intensity and duration of a lightning strike. As of November 2016, GOES has provided real-time information on more than a half-million lightning strikes.