GOES Satellites Provide Vital Weather Data and Images to NOAA Weather Forecasters and Scientists

The game of go is a strategic board game for two players. Traditionally, it is played with 181 black and 180 white “go-ishi” (flat, round stones) on a square wooden board checkered by 19 vertical and 19 horizontal lines to form 361 intersections; each player conquers territory by completely enclosing vacant points with boundaries made of their own stones. The first to occupy all the vacant points wins the game. Go is a complex and challenging strategy game that has been studied for centuries, but remains an exciting and stimulating game even for a modern day casual player.

GOES provides vital data and images to NOAA weather forecasters, scientists, and other customers. GOES satellites monitor Earth’s surface and atmosphere, detect storms and other atmospheric phenomena, provide ocean and coastal surface observations, and help support scientific research, numerical weather prediction model development and testing, and space environment monitoring.

The GOES satellite series is comprised of four operational satellites (GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T, and GOES-18), a backup satellite (GOES-B), and the upcoming GOES-U. GOES satellites are designed to operate in geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles above the Earth’s equator, where they remain fixed over one geographic area on the Earth, continuously scanning the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.

Among the primary payload instruments on each satellite is the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). ABI images the Earth’s surface and atmosphere with three times more spectral channels, five times greater resolution, and three to seven times faster scanning than previous GOES instrumentation. ABI’s data is combined to produce imagery that approximates what the human eye would see from space, a product known as GeoColor. ABI also includes the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensor, or EXIS, which tracks solar flares that could disrupt communications systems, reduce navigational accuracy, and interfere with electrical power grids on Earth.

In a study of the Amazon rainforest, scientists have used GOES-18 to collect new data every 10-15 minutes for entire days, allowing them to better understand seasonality in the region’s cloud cover and vegetation, which they hope will help improve climate models. Previously, this work had relied on polar-orbiting satellites that pass over the Amazon only once or twice per day.

The GOES-U satellite has undergone extensive prelaunch testing, including thermal vacuum tests in which the satellite was placed in a giant chamber and subjected to temperatures ranging from soaring to minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate the extreme temperatures at launch and space conditions. In addition to providing ten-minute full disk imagery, the satellite will provide the NWS with enhanced coverage of hazardous weather situations, such as volcanic ash emissions and wildfires. GOES-U is scheduled to launch in 2024.