The next generation of weather satellites was launched on the back of a rocket from Cape Canaveral on Saturday night. The GOES-R (geostationary operational environmental satellite) will take the place of other, older satellites in orbit now. When it becomes fully operation in about a year or so, the capabilities of it in space will improve our abilities to forecast weather and learn about Earth’s environment.
The main selling points of the GOES-R (GOES-16 since it’s now in orbit) have to do with protecting life, property, and the economic stability of the U.S. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says the new satellite will:
- Improve hurricane track and intensity forecasting
- Increase severe thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time
- Improve aviation flight route planning
- Improve air quality warnings and alerts
- Provide better data for long-term climate studies
- Improve solar flare warnings for communication/navigation disruptions
- More accurate monitoring of radiation hazards to humans/spacecraft
- Better monitoring of space weather to predict geomagnetic storm forecasting
For weather geeks, the GOES-16 will be great tool to use during real-time severe weather events. The satellite will show meteorologists higher-resolution clouds, real-time lightning detection, and storms cycling through strengthening and weakening cycles. It will also take hi-res pictures of the Earth’s visible disk (the side of the globe that’s visible due to direct sunlight) every five minutes. Current satellites can only do this every 30 minutes. Also, the GOES-16 can be flipped into a mode where images can be taken once per minute, providing stunning pictures of hurricanes or severe thunderstorms as they develop.
The GOES-16 still has a while until it’s fully operational, with the goal being about one year from now.
For a full breakdown of what the GOES-16 can do once it becomes fully operational, check out the official site from NASA and NOAA here.
The video below shows the capabilities the GOES-16 will have once it’s testing phase is complete. The images and lightning detection are from the older GOES-14 satellite. Images like this from GOES-16 will be much more clear.