What Are Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)?


Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) are orbiting over the equator and monitor Earth from a single position. This makes them much more effective than polar satellites, which constantly have to change positions to avoid collisions with other objects. GOES images show the entire earth in a full-disc picture, and they can detect the atmospheric “triggers” that trigger severe weather conditions such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

GOES is a NASA-NOAA joint program. The first two operational GOES satellites were launched in 1974, and the program has grown ever since. GOES is now the world’s leading environmental satellite fleet, and it provides continuous weather imagery and monitoring of meteorological and space environment data across North America.


Currently, there are two GOES satellites in operation: GOES-East at 75 degrees west longitude and GOES-West at 135 degrees west longitude. The GOES-R series will expand this number to four and provide operational coverage through 2036.

One of the most important things to know about GOES is that they are geosynchronous, meaning that they circle the Earth in a fixed position and observe the Earth at the same time every day. This is a huge advantage because it allows for very detailed observation of Earth’s surface and the ability to track severe weather events.

Another important feature of GOES is that they orbit at a very high altitude, around 35,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. This is very important because it allows them to constantly watch the same area of the Earth’s surface, and they can detect the atmospheric “triggers” for severe weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

This type of weather monitoring is vital to help the public stay safe and informed. It also helps emergency managers and meteorologists prepare for the most devastating weather situations.

The GOES-R series has a large suite of advanced instruments aboard each satellite. This includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), which offers a range of multispectral imaging capabilities to provide detailed pictures of Earth’s environment.

Other instruments on the GOES-R series include Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors, which are used to detect solar flares that can disrupt communications and reduce navigational accuracy. The GOES-R series also includes the Magnetometer, which measures magnetic fields and can be used to identify and locate storm systems.

GOES-R series also has a Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), which can measure when lightning strikes the ground or builds up in the cloud layer. GLM is a very useful tool for forecasting thunderstorms, as well as severe weather events such as tornadoes and hailstorms.

The GOES-R series is the most advanced generation of geostationary environmental satellites to date. Its greatly improved capability provides orders of magnitude improvements in spatial, temporal and spectral resolution. This is a revolution in meteorological imaging that will allow the world to view and understand the Earth like never before.