Operating the country's system of environmental satellites is one of the major responsibilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service operates the satellites and manages the processing and distribution of the millions of bits of data and images these satellites produce daily. The prime customer is the NOAA National Weather Service, which uses satellite data to create forecasts for television, radio and weather advisory services. Satellite information is also shared with various federal agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Defense and Transportation; with other countries, such as Japan, India and Russia, and members of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Kingdom Meteorological Office; and with the private sector.
NOAA's operational environmental satellite system is composed of two types of satellites: geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) for short-range warning and "now-casting," and polar-orbiting environmental satellites (POES) for longer-term forecasting. Both kinds of satellites are necessary for providing a complete global weather monitoring system.
Over the years, NOAA, with cooperation from NASA, has developed more advanced satellites. GOES are providing higher spatial and temporal resolution images and full-time operational soundings. POES are providing improved atmospheric temperature and moisture data in all weather situations. This new technology is giving the United States the most advanced weather forecast system in the world.
Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)
GOES satellite imagery is also used to estimate rainfall during thunderstorms and hurricanes for flash flood warnings, as well as estimate snowfall accumulations and overall extent of snow cover. Such data help meteorologists issue winter storm warnings and spring snow melt advisories. Satellite sensors also detect ice fields and map the movements of sea and lake ice.
NASA launched the first GOES for NOAA in 1975 and followed it with another in 1977.
GOES-10 and GOES-12 are aiding forecasters in providing better advanced warnings of thunderstorms, flash floods, hurricanes and other severe weather. Improved forecasts save lives, preserve property, and benefit agricultural and commercial interests.
GOES satellites provide meteorologists and hydrologists with detailed weather measurements, more frequent imagery and new types of atmospheric soundings. The data gathered by GOES satellites, combined with that from new Doppler radars, will make possible a revolutionary flood and water management system devised by NOAA National Weather Service hydrologists, greatly aiding water resource managers as they make critical decisions about allocating precious water resources, particularly those of the western states.
The polar orbiters monitor the entire Earth, tracking atmospheric variables and providing atmospheric data and cloud images. They track weather patterns that affect the weather and climate of the United States. The satellites provide visible and infrared radiometer data that are used for imaging purposes, radiation measurements and temperature profiles. The polar orbiters' ultraviolet sensors also provide ozone levels in the atmosphere and are able to detect the "ozone hole" over Antarctica during mid-September to mid-November. These satellites send more than 16,000 global measurements daily to the NOAA Command and Data Acquisition (CDA) station computers, adding valuable information to forecasting models, especially for remote ocean areas, where conventional data are lacking.
Currently, NOAA has two primary operational polar orbiters: NOAA-16, launched in September 2000, and NOAA-17, launched in June 2002.
Updated: April 2005