Scientists have been hard at work developing an arsenal of new tools for observing, understanding, and anticipating severe weather. Chief among these are the NOAA’s GOES-R weather satellites. The acronym stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. You probably have heard of the GOES-R already but that’s because GOES-R is a series of satellites. The first was launched successfully in November 2016 and became GOES-16. The second was launched (just a few days back on March 1) aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. Assuming everything has gone right, and the spacecraft makes it into geostationary orbit safely, it’ll go by GOES-17. The 16 and 17 satellites are the most sophisticated environmental forecasting spacecrafts ever to ride a rocket into orbit. They’ll monitor the eastern and western portions of the U.S. respectively and their adjoining oceans, spanning an area that extends from the west coast of Africa to the eastern reaches of New Zealand. Together, they’ll provide researchers and meteorologists with valuable data on weather systems — including violent storms, wildfires, lightning, and dense fog — in close to real time. The hope is these new satellites will give more accurate forecasts on your weather app and more advance warning the next time local conditions turn dangerous. The new sentinel in the sky will simultaneously image the Western hemisphere once very 15 minutes, the continental U.S. every five and smaller areas of interest every 30 seconds. That is five times faster imaging at four times the resolution of the current technology. The new satellite’s resolution is double the current resolution and will greatly help with wildfires giving people on the ground greater detail on where the wind’s blowing and where they should deploy their firefighters. These next-generation satellites will also improve fog detection around airports which will help improve planning for aviation routes. From what I understand, one of the main keys with GOES-17 is they are completing the picture of the West Coast. The weather in Hawaii and Alaska and along the Pacific Coast originates father west than researchers and forecasters could ever see with GOES-16. Assuming all goes well, GOES-17 will give researchers, forecasters, and the public a better sense of what is coming — from the day-to-day, to the extreme. For more on this satellite, check it out here at the NOAA.
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