‘Super' Weather Satellite Launches Into Space

Scientists have launched what they call a "super satellite" that will improve weather forecasting.

Fifteen years in the making, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES-R, drastically improves detection and observation.

“My first time in my 28 years we’ve had this much of an improvement in our geostationary, that we’re actually going start to see things that we see in our models, the high-resolution models, but now we’re going to be able to track and see them,” said Joseph Sienkiewicz of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

There are two types of weather satellites: One orbits from pole to pole getting pictures of the entire planet, and the other is geostationary, meaning it stays in the same spot. Without them, accurate weather forecasts wouldn’t be possible.

With GOES-R, forecasts will improve.

One of the most anticipated attributes of GOES-R is the ability to detect lightning. It is equipped with a camera that can take an image 200 times per second, allowing scientists to see lightning fields across the entire U.S. and in clouds above the open ocean.

“Twenty-two thousand miles up, the lightning is detected by the sensor and within 20 seconds, that lightning data has made it to the ground,” said physical scientist Scott Rudlosky, who helped develop the lightning technology.

Because of GOES-R, tornado warnings likely will be issued 5-10 minutes earlier.

“The quoted number now is 13 minutes for tornado warning lead times," Rudlosky said.

He hopes they get up to a 20 minute lead time.

GOES-R will provide a better picture of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and will be another way to monitor solar activity. It also will help with hurricane forecasting.

When GOES-R and its sister unit come online, they will produce more data in six months than all of our weather satellites over the past three decades combined.

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