Satellites have helped forecasters predict the weather for more than forty years. Now, they are getting a major upgrade.
Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday night, the GOES-R is the newest model in NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series. It has been nearly a decade since the last upgrade and this one is loaded with new technology.
Carrying 34 different weather products, the main instrument is the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). Essentially a camera that views the western hemisphere’s weather, oceans, and environment, it offers 3 times the spectral information, 4 times the spatial resolution, and temporal coverage that is five times faster than the previous GOES model. In other words, it will provide a clearer and faster image of what is going on in the atmosphere than ever before, allowing for better forecasts. This, in turn, means improved protection for lives and property, which is the main mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Other instruments onboard include a lightning mapper, which will continuously measure the lightning activity over both North and South America. This information is important because the rate of lightning is related to a storm’s updraft. Better lightning data can increase the lead-time for warnings on storms that could produce severe weather. Another important device is the magnetometer. It will monitor space weather such as solar storms that produce the northern lights and can, when strong enough, disrupt power grids and telecommunications.
Once in orbit, GOES-R will become known as GOES-16 (letters are only used while it is in development on the ground). After a calibration and testing period of several months, its data will become available to forecasters. If all goes well, it should be online by next year’s hurricane season.