What is GOES?


GOES is the acronym for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, an advanced weather system operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It provides a continuous stream of environmental data to support weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorology research.

The GOES system is the primary weather monitoring and forecasting system for North America. It also helps scientists better understand land, atmosphere, ocean and climate dynamics.

First introduced in 1974 with the launch of SMS-1, GOES is a series of geosynchronous equatorial weather satellites that provide continuous monitoring and analysis of Earth’s environment for NOAA. It is currently operated by four GOES-R series satellites, built by Lockheed Martin using the A2100 satellite bus.

These fourth generation spacecraft extend GOES’ operational capability through 2036, while providing faster and more accurate weather forecasts than ever before.

GOES’s geosynchronous orbit allows the satellite to hover over one position on the Earth’s surface for a long period of time, which means it can observe atmospheric “triggers” that are often associated with tornadoes, flash floods and hurricanes. Its constant vigilance also allows for more effective and timely weather warnings.

For example, the GOES-R spacecraft’s geostationary lightning mapper (GLM) instrument can detect lightning strikes continuously across the Americas, with an accuracy of 10 kilometers. The GLM is complemented by other instruments on board the GOES-R satellite, including the solar ultraviolet imager (SUVI) and space environment in-situ suite (SEISS).

Each GOES-R satellite also features an Advanced Baseline Imager, a technology that can provide a full disk of imagery every 10 minutes. This capability is especially useful for detecting turbulence, which can occur near thunderstorms and can help increase the accuracy of weather forecasts.

The GOES-R satellites also feature the geostationary radar backscatterometer (GRB), which is a high-resolution radar that can detect changes in the atmosphere and improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts. It is also used to determine atmospheric ozone levels and determine wind shear in the upper troposphere.

While GOES is a basic element of the American weather forecasting and monitoring system, it also supports many other activities such as drought monitoring, oceanography, and search and rescue missions. Its ability to provide data about a broad range of environmental conditions is critical for a number of scientific purposes, and it’s a valuable tool in the fight against climate change.

GOES is also important for analyzing the effects of incoming radiation from space on Earth’s atmosphere and climate. Its space environment in-situ suite (SEISS) consists of four sensors to measure proton, electron and heavy ion fluxes and is a valuable component for understanding and assessing the health of our planet’s climate.

In addition to its main role in supporting weather forecasting and severe storm tracking, the GOES-R series is an essential tool for improving climate models that predict changes in the planet’s weather. It is a major part of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction System, which uses satellites and ground-based tools to detect and track extreme atmospheric events.