One of the most exciting success stories in weather over the past year has not been taking place here on Earth, but actually miles above the surface.  GOES-16, the next generation of advanced weather satellites, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in November of 2016.  Over the past 12 months, the satellite has been going through a period of extensive testing of all instruments, to create a seamless transition into operations.

GOES-16 was able to capture the Solar Eclipse August 21st, 2017 as the shadow of Earth’s moon fell up the United States.

Currently, there are two official satellites in use by the National Weather Service. GOES-13, also known as GOES East, and GOES-15, also known as GOES West.  GOES East and West have been looking down upon the Earth since 2006 and 2010, and are beginning to reach the end of their operational design lifespans.  GOES-16 marks the beginning of the next generation of weather satellites, with even more even more quality, speed, and utility.

GOES-16 will have a whopping 16 different spectral bands that it can record, over three times more than GOES East or West.  Spatial resolution will also increase by a factor of four.  This will allow meteorologists to identify features with greater detail and accuracy than ever before.  Even with an increase in resolution, GOES-16 has speeds up to five times faster than before.  New images from space can now be viewed every minute during severe weather scenarios, compared to the previous fifteen minutes between images.

GOES-16 may look small, but actually weighs over 6,000 pounds and up to 20 feet long and 15 feet wide while in orbit.

Along with the improved spectral bands, a new feature called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) is also making its debut with GOES-16.  The GLM senses infrared energy emitted from lightning strikes, in both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strikes.  Data collected from the GLM is the first of its kind in geostationary orbit, and has shown tremendous potential for forecasters in the National Weather Service.

“Trends in total lightning available from the GLM have the promise of providing critical information to forecasters, allowing them to focus on developing severe storms much earlier and before these storms produce damaging winds, hail or even tornadoes.” NOAA/NASA

Beginning November 30th, GOES-16 will begin to drift into the position of GOES East, finishing twelve days later on December 11th.  After a period of final testing and activation, GOES-16 will officially become GOES-East between December 14th and 20th.  GOES-13 will then go into storage.  More details about GOES-16 can be found on the GOES-16 Website along with a detailed plan for the transition to operations.

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About Kevin Thiel

Kevin is a Meteorology Major and Mathematics Minor at Ohio University, with an interest for thunderstorm electrification and research. On campus, he serves as President of the AMS Student Chapter, along with Webmaster and Forecaster for the campus atmospheric lab. This past summer, Kevin interned at the National Weather Service office in Miami, Florida, using lightning and radar data to study severe thunderstorm potential. One day, Kevin hopes to enter into field of academia and research, or become a forecaster with the Storm Prediction Center.
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