GOES-R – taking weather observation to new heights

Four decades after the launch of NOAA’s first weather-observing satellite, meteorologists are excited about the capabilities of the next-generation model – GOES-R – which is due for launch tomorrow.


Once in geo-stationary orbit, GOES-R will deliver unrivalled information about the weather across the Americas. Image courtesy of NASA

Dr Simon Keogh leads the Met Office’s Satellite Data Products and Systems team. He said: “Positioned over 22,000 miles above the Earth, GOES-R will take weather observation to new heights. GOES-R will be in a geo-stationary orbit looking down on the Americas and will provide a detailed view of some of the world’s most dramatic weather in near real time.” The Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on GOES-R will provide updates every few minutes and will provide high-resolution tracking of hurricanes and other rapidly-evolving features.

The imaging systems on GOES-R cover 16 spectral bands, allowing scientists and meteorologists to monitor dust storms, volcanic ash, severe storms and other weather phenomena. Dr Keogh added: “Imaging across so many spectral bands is a significant leap forward from the current GOES monitoring in just five bands, including infrared and visual wavelengths, especially as it provides information that allows us to understand more about atmospheric composition and the presence of contaminants such as volcanic ash, dust and smoke plumes.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the satellite’s capabilities is the ability to monitor lightning from space. Using the world’s first Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) scientists will be able to gather data on lighting activity over the Americas, boosting the imperfect coverage over the oceans and sparsely-populated areas. Dr Keogh added: “Having a satellite view, rather than relying on ground-based observations, will be a real game changer for those weather and climate scientists who are interested in lightning and the production of nitrogen-oxide gases.”

In a video covering the capabilities of GOES-R, NOAA hopes the GLM will also provide more information about lightning activity in the development of tornadoes, as researchers know that an increase in lightning activity can provide clues about where tornadoes will form.

As well as monitoring the situation on the Earth, GOES-R will also have an updated Space Weather sensor, providing NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) and the UK Met Office’s Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC).

Commenting on the anticipated launch, Dr Keogh concluded: “Weather and climate scientists all around the world will breathe a huge sigh of relief once GOES-R is in its geostationary orbit, especially as the satellite had been kept in a location in Florida that was in the path of the devastating Hurricane Matthew.”

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