Weather satellites provide real-time images of the Earth’s weather, oceans and environment. These satellites help meteorologists prepare for and respond to major storms, wildfires, ice storms and other weather-related events.
There are two basic types of weather satellites – geostationary and polar orbiting. Each can take a picture of the entire globe every half hour.
Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellites (GOES)
There are a number of weather satellites in space, all operated by different organizations. One of these is the Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellites (GOES) program, which is owned and managed by NOAA.
GOES satellites orbit about 35,785 kilometers above the equator and complete an orbit every 24 hours. This orbit enables them to hover above one position on Earth’s surface, providing constant vigilance for atmospheric “triggers” for severe weather conditions.
These satellites are a key component of NOAA’s weather forecast system, which relies on continuous monitoring of the Earth’s weather environment. They also provide data on solar radiation storms and other space weather events that can affect communications, navigation, and power grids.
To be able to view the entire planet, these satellites must orbit at a high altitude. As a result, they are more susceptible to collisions with debris than their low-Earth and polar-orbiting counterparts.
The GOES satellites are three-axis stabilized and continuously monitor the United States, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, and South America. Their sensors image the clouds, monitor Earth’s surface temperature and water vapour fields, and sound the atmosphere for its vertical thermal and vapor structures to help track and predict atmospheric phenomena like tropical cyclones and hurricanes.
There are six GOES satellites currently in operation, including the latest addition, GOES-T. It was launched on March 1 and reached geostationary orbit after completing its final engine burn. It is a part of the GOES-R series, which will improve space weather observations by several orders of magnitude.
Another GOES-R satellite, GOES-18, is set to launch in May and will replace GOES-17. It will provide improved space weather observations of the western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico to keep watch on wildfires, lightning, Pacific Ocean-based storms, dense fog, and other hazards that could impact the region.
The GOES-R series is made up of six different instruments that measure land and space parameters, including the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). It will also monitor proton, electron, and heavy ion fluxes in the upper atmosphere using a suite of four instruments called the Space Environment In Situ Suite (SEISS). These instruments are designed to help detect incoming solar flares. They will also be able to monitor solar winds that could cause communication disruptions and reduce the accuracy of satellite-based navigation.
Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES)
NOAA operates two types of weather satellites, Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellites (GOES) and Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES). GOES are vital for national, regional and short-range warning and “now-casting,” while POES provide global long-term forecasting and environmental monitoring. They also carry search and rescue instruments to relay signals from people in distress.
There are four GOES spacecraft in orbit, each carrying a unique suite of sensors that monitors weather conditions in the United States and the world. These include the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imaging instrument that scans a swath of Earth about 3000 kilometers wide.
These images are then processed and analyzed for meteorological applications. The data is then provided to the public and to government agencies to help them make decisions about weather and climate.
The AVHRR instrument is sensitive to sunlight and the reflected and refracted light from clouds, water vapor and other atmospheric particles. This information can be used to measure wind speed, determine air temperature and other atmospheric parameters that are important for forecasting.
This information can then be used to develop models that predict the weather out to five to ten days in advance. This allows forecasters to protect their customers from weather disasters, such as snow storms and hurricanes.
NOAA also uses this data for environmental research and studies, including climate change, vegetation monitoring, biomass burning, El Nino and pollution. It is important to have this kind of data for scientific research so that we can better understand the interactions among Earth’s systems.
Another important use of this type of data is to study the sun and the ionosphere, the region of the upper atmosphere containing energetic charged particles. This is a crucial part of solar terrestrial science, and it can be used to determine the intensity of the Earth’s radiation belts and to detect the flux of charged particles that can disrupt long-range communication, high-altitude manned operations or satellite operations.
In addition, NOAA carries a series of solar x-ray imagers and space environmental monitor (SEM) systems to measure magnetic fields, the intensity of the sun’s radiation belts and other high energy electrons, protons and alpha particles. These systems can also be used to detect disturbances caused by the auroral activity of the sun.
Cloud Monitoring Satellites (CMOSAT)
There are a huge number of weather satellites in space. As of April 2020, there were more than 2,600 operational satellites in orbit, including those operated by the United States and Russia (the former USSR).
The United States is the largest operator of satellites, with 2,944 active satellites in space as of January 1, 2022. They are mainly used for meteorological purposes, with the largest numbers of active weather satellites also being used to monitor migration flows.
These satellites can use a wide range of sensors, radars and cameras to perform different tasks. One of the most interesting uses is in severe weather monitoring where they can see things like explosive updrafts, overshooting tops, anvils and storm structures with high resolution. They can help forecasters know when the boundaries are going to develop and where the storms will fire off from.
Clouds are a vital part of the climate system and they are often the source of much of the rain and snow we see on the ground. They are also the primary cause of lightning.
There are two weather satellites that track clouds, CALIPSO and CloudSat. These are “active” sensors that send beams of energy at the Earth and measure how these reflect back from the clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere.
Using this data, they help scientists understand how clouds affect our planet. Moreover, they help improve predictions of how clouds will change over time.
However, these satellites are vulnerable to problems that can affect their ability to operate in the way they were designed. Consequently, both CALIPSO and CloudSat were programmed to exit the “A-Train” of satellites if they experienced any technical issue that would prevent them from continuing their science mission.
In February 2018, CloudSat and CALIPSO both experienced a mechanical problem causing them to leave the A-Train, and now they are forming the “C-Train”. While their sister spacecraft continue to operate, the satellites are now separated in different orbits.
Weather satellites are a vital part of meteorology and are used to monitor the global weather system. They help meteorologists make accurate weather forecasts and create weather forecast models. They also track important weather events such as hurricanes in realtime.
There are two types of weather satellites: polar orbiting and geostationary. Each type of satellite has its own unique capabilities, but both provide valuable information for meteorologists and the public.
The United States operates a number of weather satellites. These include the NOAA range of satellites and a series called Meteor (METeosat). The European Space Agency and EUMETSAT also have weather satellites in space.
These satellites are able to monitor the weather continuously and provide images of the Earth that can be looped together to produce movies showing cloud movements. This information is crucial for forecasting of large weather systems such as fronts, storms, and hurricanes.
Several countries have their own polar-orbiting satellites, including the United States, Russia, and Europe. These are able to take pictures of the Earth’s surface and track the movement of ice fields, snow, and the depth of ocean water.
In addition to imagery, these satellites also help meteorologists create forecast models called Weather Prediction Models (WPM). These models use atmospheric observational data, such as wind speed and temperature, to predict the weather.
These models are incredibly useful, because they allow meteorologists to create very detailed forecasts that are often much more accurate than simple radar-based observations. This type of modeling has revolutionized weather forecasting and has dramatically improved the accuracy of predictions made by many forecasting services.
As of September 2018, there are approximately 55 weather satellites in space. These satellites are operated by a variety of countries, including the United States, Japan, China, Europe, and India.
Across the globe, the weather is constantly changing. That’s why the world needs a network of weather satellites in space. These satellites provide a fixed view of the Earth, so meteorologists can watch and measure tornadoes, wildfires, and major storms.
There are a number of different types of weather satellites, but the two most commonly used are polar orbiting and geostationary. There are several polar orbiting satellites that circle the Earth at least 14 times per day, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s TIROS, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program’s DMSP, and Russia’s METEOR. There are also five geostationary satellites that orbit at a distance of 35 880 km above the equator. These satellites remain in sync with the Earth’s orbit, so they can provide more frequent images than polar-orbiting weather satellites.