The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) System


The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) is a system of satellites used to monitor large sectors of the Earth. It provides nearly continuous observational information to ground-based user stations. GOES satellites are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These satellites remain in a geosynchronous orbit, which means they orbit the Earth at the same speed as it spins on its axis.

GOES images allow meteorologists to track the movement of clouds. By studying the brightness of the sunlight that reflects off of cloud tops, they can tell how fast a cloud is moving. This helps them to estimate the accumulation of snow and rainfall. In addition, GOES data is invaluable for short-term weather forecasting.

GOES data is used by universities, the Department of Defense, and many commercial weather services. For example, GOES satellite imagery is vital for issuing winter storm warnings and for determining how much precipitation a thunderstorm can produce. Additionally, GOES data can be used to monitor volcanic activity.

GOES data is processed by the Data Collection System (DCS), which is a dual-computer based system located at NOAA’s Command and Data Acquisition Facility in Wallops, Virginia. DCS receives incoming messages from more than 20,000 DCPs in the western hemisphere. Each DCP is equipped with a transmitter and a number of environmental sensors. They are programmed to transmit their sensor data on certain GOES channels during specified time slots.

GOES-R Series Imager: GOES-R Series imagers are four times more powerful than their predecessors. Their sensors can scan five times faster. Because of the increased speed, GOES-R Series images are available every 30 minutes. All GOES-R series satellites are equipped with the Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEIS), a combination of Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors.

GOES-R Series Instruments: GOES-R series instruments include the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), Compact Coronagraph-1, and Magnetometer. Every GOES-R series satellite is also equipped with the Space Environment In-Situ (SES) Suite. SEIS is a collection of a variety of instruments, including the Extreme Ultraviolet Sensor, the X-ray Irradiance Sensor, and the Advanced Baseline Imager. Combined with the ABI, the X-ray Irradiance sensor is able to detect clouds in the upper atmosphere.

GOES-R Band: GOES-R bands are combined with a polar orbiting satellite to produce a picture of the Earth. GOES-R is used for air temperature estimation, cloud observations, and to determine the location of the tropopause.

GOES-R is an interagency program between the NOAA and NASA. It is a collaborative effort to improve the GOES satellite system through the use of more advanced imaging technologies. GOES-R Series data is provided to the emergency managers and weather information network. GOES-R data products are available on CD-ROM and on STAR webservers.

GOES and POES share 40+ years of history. Both are instrumental in weather forecasting and detecting ash plumes associated with volcanoes. As a result of this history, both systems have been adapted to new technology. GOES is currently upgrading its imagery to produce a better view of the U.S. and to increase the temporal resolution of its imagers, which will help to reduce the risk of an airplane encountering an ash plume.