Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A little about GOES 13-15 (GOES N,O,P) series

I don’t know about you, but knowing that GOES-R/16 has been launched, is in geostationary orbit and soon to be ready for operational testing got me interested in what the GOES N,O,P (13-15) series of satellites do. I posted some information on the launch dates and status of GOES 13-15 on November 30th. To briefly review:

GOES-13 is currently operating as GOES East at 75 degrees West longitude
GOES-14 is currently located at 105 degrees west longitude. She is an on-orbit spare.
GOES-15 is currently operating as GOES West at 135 degrees west longitude.

I spent some time doing research on the internet and found some pages from NOAA and NASA that are listed as no longer being updated and are “archived” with perhaps outdate links. I have tried to only link to NOAA pages on the GOES N,O,P series that either are not archived or appear to be updated on a regular basis.

The United States has two Geostationary Environmental Satellites that are active and supplying data, GOES East (currently GOES-13) and GOES West (currently GOES -15). The European Organisation for the Exploitation of meteorological Satellites (EUMETSTAT) have two geostationary satellites, one over the Indian Ocean the second over Western Africa. The Japan Meteorological Agency operates one geostationary satellite over the Western Pacific. All in all five geostationary satellites, and by international agreement, they assist all countries. (, accessed on December 8, 2016 )

Instruments on GOES N,O,P series - GOES 13-15 (I found most, if not all of the information on the instruments on the GOES N,O,P along with other background information in the GOES-N Mission Brochure (covers GOES N,O,P); accessed via GOES-N Status on December 8, 2016)

Imager: The imager supplies continuous data over five channels. Earth images produced by GOES East (GOES 13) and GOES West (GOES 15) include images of the surface, oceans, severe storm development, cloud cover, cloud temperature and height, surface temperature and water vapor. “It allows users to identify fog at night, distinguish between water and ice clouds during daytime hours, detect hot spots (such as volcanoes and forest fires), locate a hurricane eye, and acquire measurements of ground and sea surface temperatures (GOES-N Mission Brochure (covers GOES N,O,P), p. 10; accessed via GOES-N Status on December 8, 2016).  

Operational Meteorologists from the National Weather Service and elsewhere are heavy users of this image data. You have probably seen images from either GOES East or GOES West on weather broadcasts.

GOES East and GOES West produce three different types of images: visible light, infrared and water vapor. The National Weather Service’s JetStream online weather education pages has a nice discussion of geostationary satellite images where you may learn a little about each type of image along with some sample images.

Combined visible and infrared imagery, colorized infrared imagery, and water vapor imagery may be accessed from NOAA Satellite and Information Service - imagery and data page. Note that other satellite imagery is also available on this page.

Sounder: The sounder is a separate piece of equipment on the GOES with limited sounding capabilities. The sounder provides temperature and moisture data at various levels in the atmosphere, somewhat like weather balloons, but not as detailed. Although this sounder data is not used directly by forecasters, it is important for input into computer-based weather prediction models. As I write this, the GOES East (GOES-13) sounder is not operational.

Space: There are three instruments on GOES 13-15 that provide data on space weather, including but not limited to solar weather. This data is eventually fed to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center who in turns feeds information, advisories and warnings on space weather to local NWS Weather Forecast Offices (e.g. when flares from our sun might reach earth and possibly cause geomagnetic disturbances such as auroras, possible communication and electrical disruption.

I’d like to thank a couple of friends who are operational meteorologists at the National Weather Service for their help as I learned about GOES 13-15. This article is possible because of your e-mails and telephone conversations. Thank-you!

Over the next few months, I will be keeping an eye out for interesting images and other data from GOES East and GOES West as well as following the operational testing, as I can, of GOES-R/16. As appropriate, write more articles. 

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