GOES-16 marks a new era for geostationary satellites

Meteorologists, scientists, and weather enthusiasts worldwide received the first “fantastically rich” images from the next-gen satellite Monday.

NOAA GOES-16 Satellite Image
Composite color full-disk visible image of North and South America captured on Jan. 15. GOES-16 observes Earth spanning from the coast of West Africa to Hawaii.

According to NOAA, GOES-16 will be “like high-definition from the heavens”. A key difference between existing satellites and the new GOES-R series is a primary instrument called the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). Think of the ABI as the “camera” on the satellite with the capability to capture high-resolution, state-of-the-art images of Earth’s atmosphere. ABI will provide “three times more spectral information, four times the spatial resolution, and more than five times faster temporal coverage than the current system.”

GOES-16 will also implement a first-of-a-kind instrument in geostationary orbit; the Global Lightning Mapper. This instrument continuously tracks lightning data around North America, allowing forecasters to determine locations of severe weather with greater accuracy.satellite

GOES-R lifted off from Cape Canaveral on November 19, transitioning to GOES-16 as it entered geostationary orbit on November 29. For non-weather folks, geostationary orbit simply means the circular orbit around the Earth’s equator where the satellite is traveling the same speed as Earth rotating below it. To viewers on Earth, the satellite appears to be in stationary, or in the same spot in the sky all the time. Hundreds of satellites are in this geostationary orbit, located roughly 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface. In order to prevent collision, the satellites are moving at similar speeds in this particular orbit.

GOES-16 is designed to become operational and replace either GOES-East or GOES-West this coming November. Once operational, meteorologists around the global will have unprecedented weather information allowing forecasters to create increasingly accurate and timely weather forecasts.

For more GOES-16 images click here.