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Weather Wisdom: Weather Satellite, An eye on the future!

There's a new tool and it's called Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R (GOES-R.) It’s the next generation of weather satellite. GOES satellites have been scanning the skies since 1975 with the first individual weather satellite picture taken in 1960. (Photo: MGN)

It has been said that meteorological tools like satellites are the eyes of the meteorologist. If that’s the case, our eyes are going to get a lot stronger and a lot clearer in the near future.

There's a new tool and it's called Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R (GOES-R.) It’s the next generation of weather satellite. GOES satellites have been scanning the skies since 1975 with the first individual weather satellite picture taken in 1960.

In general terms, this new piece of technology will directly affect public safety, protection of property and add to our nation’s economic health and prosperity.

I can’t tell you how excited meteorologists are to put this product into practice. This will allow us to monitor the western hemisphere in real-time in much greater resolution. This is the meteorological equivalent of going from black and white, to an ultra-high-definition color television. In practical terms, that means the weather data is faster and more accurate.

But how will this impact the day to day operations for a meteorologist?

We expect greatly improved forecast of hurricane tracking and intensity. In the spring and summer we’re looking for increased thunderstorm and tornado warning lead times. In addition, it’s likely we’ll have better detection of heavy rain, lightning detection and potential flash flooding risks. Folks that work in the aviation, communication and navigation fields will also see forecasting benefits.

In less than two weeks from now, the launch will take place from the Space Launch Complex at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Once the satellite reaches a successful geostationary orbit located 22,300 miles above the equator, the name of the mission changes from GOES-R to GOES-16. A geostationary orbit is an orbit that keeps the satellite over a specific location on the earth. This enables a constant view of our atmosphere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How can a satellite make direct impact on life and property? A simple comparison between two devastating hurricanes before and after the satellite era can illustrate the difference. Before satellites the Galveston Texas Hurricane of 1900 killed an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people. However, Hurricane Camille in 1969 (after the satellite era) killed 259 people. Two major hurricanes, but the loss of life- vastly different.

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