New NOAA weather satellite is a game-changer for forecasting

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A new weather satellite is being called a game changer for Western Hemisphere forecasters.

The first of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s advanced weather satellites – GOES-R – will lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday around 5:40 p.m. ET, ushering in the next generation of forecasts and warnings.

The biggest improvement over the satellites currently in use is the higher resolution imagery.

All weather satellites are placed in geostationary orbit – meaning the satellite remains fixed relative to the same location on Earth – essential for monitoring storms.

But at 35,000 kilometers above sea level, getting high-resolution detail of what’s happening below can be a challenge.

The new technology will allow GOES-R to provide four times the spatial resolution with five times faster coverage.

The finer details of a rapidly changing storm system will be available in real time, whether it is a snowstorm, hurricane, or tornado. The satellite will offer more clues about the changing weather, which means more accurate and timely forecasts.

lightning tracker

Among GOES-R’s six highly advanced instruments is the first operational lightning mapping tool of its kind, which will allow forecasters to track lightning across the entire hemisphere almost instantaneously.

While much of the monitoring will focus on the Earth below, GOES-R will also track the sun for extreme space weather events that could affect our communication.

Once launched, GOES-R will undergo testing and validation for a year before entering operational service.

There are more satellites to come. GOES-R is actually the first in a series of four satellites: R, S, T and U, which will extend satellite coverage until 2036.

Sandra Smalley, director of NASA’s Joint Agency Satellite Division, said “this mission builds on more than four decades of partnership between NOAA and NASA to successfully build and launch operational geostationary environmental satellites.”

To say that meteorologists are enthusiastic is an understatement.

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