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.
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.
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.