The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite System (GOES)


A Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES, is an integrated system of Earth and space environmental sensors operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The satellites are part of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), and provide nearly continuous observational information to ground-based user stations. These data products are used for weather forecasting, observing atmospheric phenomena, and monitoring natural disasters. They are also important for emergency response crews.

A GOES satellite is a geosynchronous equatorial orbiting satellite that is placed in geostationary orbit, where it remains in a fixed position above the Earth. This allows the satellite to view the Earth from a distance of approximately 22 300 miles above the surface. Its instruments, such as the Imager, Sounder, and Advanced Baseline Imager, are used to measure and scan the earth’s atmosphere.

In addition to the imagery, GOES provides information on the weather in the United States and the western hemisphere. As of February 2009, GOES has fourteen satellites, which provide real-time imagery and meteorological information for the entire western hemisphere. Since its inception, GOES has been a crucial part of the National Weather Service’s operations.

GOES satellites provide real-time coverage of tropical cyclones, local storms, and other severe weather conditions. Several GOES spacecraft are in geostationary orbit, and the Satellite Operations Control Center (SOCC) in Suitland, Maryland, is responsible for controlling and monitoring the satellites.

GOES satellites provide real-time information on the movement of cloud tops. Scientists study the clouds in the upper atmosphere using long-wave infrared radiation. Using this type of radiation, meteorologists can identify cloud types, and track the speed and direction of moving cloud clusters. Some GOES satellites even provide data on the distribution of ozone.

GOES satellites are monitored by a team of meteorologists. The images and data produced by the satellites are available for use by the National Weather Service, the Department of Defense, and many other users. Because of its accuracy, GOES data is vital for short-term forecasting. Additionally, the GOES system supports the Data Collection System (DCS), which is a system that allows meteorologists to monitor the earth from a series of remote locations.

GOES data is delivered to the DCS Automated Processing System, which is located at NOAA Command and Data Acquisition facility in Wallops, Virginia. This large dual-computer-based system can archive messages from up to 100,000 platforms, and it can also distribute messages to up to 5,000 users. There are also land, sea, and mobile-based Data Collection Platforms. Currently, the DCS has over 20,000 DCPs in the western hemisphere.

GOES has provided the platform for various space-based instruments, including the Solar X-Ray Imager (SXR) on GOES-12 and the Space Environment Monitoring Instruments (SEM) on GOES-12 and -13. The GeoXO satellite system, which is in the planning phase, is expected to provide hyperspectral infrared sounder measurements.

The GOES data products are available on CD-ROM. GOES Satellite data is distributed by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services (NESDIS) and is used by a wide variety of users.