Even satellites retire

Click on this video to see 10 years’ worth of data in 3 minutes.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT-TV)  You know the old saying, “Nothing lasts forever.”  That goes for weather satellites and this week, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 12 was set to a higher orbit and turned off.  Its been cranking out images since July, 2001 and its been witness to some of the most memorable weather events this century.  GOES-12 showed us all the ominous swirl of clouds that filled the Gulf in late August, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina.  In 2009, when a blizzard cancelled Christmas for much of the Central U.S. – GOES-12 captured those images as well.  Even after it was taken out of regular service, it was moved south of the equator to monitor wildfires and volcanic ash in South America.

GOES-12 is one of a fleet of satellites operated by the National Weather Service that monitor weather conditions 24 hours a day.  They’re parked 22,000 miles above our planet sending back data on clouds and atmospheric moisture.  It would be nearly impossible to forecast weather without these irreplaceable tools.  There are three other such spacecraft in orbit now; each with a numerical designation.  GOES-13 is locked over the Eastern U.S., GOES-15 for the West.  A third, GOES-14 is available as a spare and was used earlier this year when GOES-13 failed.

A new generation of weather satellites is scheduled to be launched beginning in 2015 that will replace the current set providing even higher resolution.  The theory, of course, is that better data fed into better computer models will provide more accurate computer forecasts.

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