The Importance of Satellites for Weather Forecasting

satellites for weather

Weather satellites provide information on land and ocean conditions that helps meteorologists forecast severe weather, such as hurricanes. They also help predict air and water temperatures, wind speeds, and wave heights.

Weather satellites are part of a global constellation of Earth-observing satellites that now includes 545 satellites, up from 49 in 1990. This increase in the number of satellites has allowed for more detailed data on our planet’s weather systems, helping meteorologists spot patterns and changes hours to days before they are seen by observing instruments on the ground.


A geostationary satellite is one that hangs directly over a specific point in the sky. It has an orbital period of 24 hours, just as the Earth does.

This type of orbit is used by several types of weather and communications satellites for various purposes. These include communication satellites to transmit data or images, and weather satellites to monitor weather patterns and provide continuous coverage of a given region.

These are very useful to help forecasters predict weather, such as rain, snow, hail and tornadoes. They allow meteorologists to look at a large area of the earth and see a variety of conditions, including wind speed, temperature and cloud coverage.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses the GOES series of weather satellites to monitor the entire globe. GOES East watches over most of North America, while GOES West covers much of the Pacific. They also provide continuous monitoring of tropical cyclones, storm movement and lightning activity. They can also be used to determine the amount of precipitation, ice cover and track avalanche conditions.

In addition to these weather monitoring and forecasting applications, geostationary satellites are often used for research and climate studies. The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) has a number of operational geostationary weather satellites, as well as many in development.

A major advantage of geostationary satellites is that they are stationary with respect to the Earth, which means that they can take a picture of a particular location every 30 minutes. This allows the satellite to collect more detailed observations than polar-orbiting weather satellites.

Since 1960, meteorologists have been able to use weather satellites to gain a bird’s eye view of the weather, and make accurate predictions of what the weather will be like. Before that, forecasters relied on hand-drawn weather maps and other manual methods to track the weather.

Today, many of the most advanced meteorological satellites are geostationary, and are used for monitoring and forecasting weather patterns around the world. For example, GOES satellites are used to provide constant monitoring of significant weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and flash floods.


Polar-orbiting satellites provide weather data and imagery for forecasters, climatologists, and the military. The satellites are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and they are a vital part of NOAA’s system of global observation.

They are a key component of NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System, a constellation of satellites that collect measurements of weather and climate worldwide. These observations are critical to short-term and long-term weather forecasting, as well as global climate monitoring.

A polar orbit is a low-altitude orbit, typically below the Earth’s equator, where the satellite can observe the entire globe. It takes a satellite about an hour and a half to complete one orbit.

Unlike geostationary satellites, which orbit over the equator and appear to stay still for much of the time, polar-orbiting satellites constantly circle the planet in an almost north-south direction. They pass close to the poles and can observe cloud movement over large weather systems, such as fronts, storms, and hurricanes.

They also provide information about surface winds by using microwave sensors. These instruments derive wind conditions by detecting the waves that are created when the ocean surface reflects or absorbs microwave radiation.

These polar-orbiting satellites have two primary missions: to provide daily global coverage, and to provide a variety of data for scientific analysis. They use a series of instrument suites to monitor global climate and the environment.

The most commonly used instruments include the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and the microwave channel for observing sea winds. They can also provide data on air temperature, humidity, and visibility.

Another important polar-orbiting instrument is the Day-Night Band, which lets scientists see through clouds and see how they interact with the atmosphere. This information can be used to develop accurate weather forecasts for several days in advance.

Other polar-orbiting instruments help with search and rescue, including the special International Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (SARSAT) instruments that are specially designed to detect distress signals from aircraft, ships, and boats. They can also locate the location of people stranded in remote areas, or lost at sea.


Weather satellites provide global-scale imagery for meteorologists that helps them make accurate and lifesaving forecasts. They also help meteorologists track large weather systems like fronts, storms and hurricanes. This data is then ingested into computer models to predict future conditions.

Weather forecasting requires a combination of information from land-based sensors, such as radar and radiosondes, and the latest weather data from satellites. The two most common types of weather satellites are geostationary and polar-orbiting.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program is the primary observing platform for all weather forecasting operations in the US, with two GOES satellites – one positioned in the Atlantic Ocean and the other in the Pacific Ocean – orbiting at 35,800 km above Earth to provide high-definition images of the entire planet. This coverage is also valuable for detecting tropical cyclones, tracking the progress of El Nino and monitoring the effects of climate change.

Other weather satellites, including the Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite and European Union’s METEOSAT program, provide detailed observations of the atmosphere. This data is then incorporated into forecasts and used to monitor the effects of climate change and other environmental issues.

These weather satellites are vital for detecting volcanic eruptions, identifying fires and smoke from wildfires, and tracking hurricane development. This imagery is also critical for identifying the impact of the Antarctic ozone hole, which affects many countries and causes damage to crops and tourism.

In addition to providing information about the earth’s surface, weather satellites also monitor the sun and space weather that can disrupt communication and navigation, power blackouts and radiation hazards. This allows meteorologists to postpone satellite launches, notify astronauts on the International Space Station to seek shelter, and shut down electricity to avoid failures.

Most weather satellites carry a radio transmitter and receiver. The radio allows ground control to receive status updates and reprogramme the satellite’s computers. They also send information back to the control center on what their instruments are doing and how they are doing it.

Some weather satellites have a range of sensors that can probe the Earth’s surface in different ways, allowing scientists to measure temperatures, moisture and water vapor in the air and on the ground. This process is known as atmospheric sounding.


Weather satellites are more than just a piece of hardware. They have a range of functions that are important to meteorologists and emergency managers alike.

They help forecasters and other scientists predict and prepare for the next big storm, snowstorm or hurricane. They also allow us to view the skies in a way that is surprisingly detailed and accurate.

There are two types of weather satellites: geostationary (GEO) and polar orbiting (POES). The most popular is the GOES satellite, which is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These satellites sit in a stationary position above Earth and track the sun.

A geostationary satellite can keep an eye on the same area of Earth 24 hours a day and provides continuous images of the planet, like those you see in newspapers or on the TV. They are used to monitor conditions such as rainfall, air temperature and humidity.

The GOES satellite is a good choice for monitoring severe weather and hurricanes. The satellite has several cameras that take high-resolution pictures of the planet’s surface.

This information is then analyzed by scientists to produce predictions that are shared in newspapers, television and the Internet. Often, this information is accompanied by videos that explain the science behind it.

Other than a GOES or POES, the best choice for most of us is the low-Earth orbit satellites, which are part of NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). These satellites offer a wide variety of weather and other relevant measurements.

They are the main source of data for many NOAA services, including hurricane tracking and forecasting, climatology, and climate hazard mitigation. They are also a key component of NOAA’s Joint Operational Environmental Satellite Program, which provides the backbone of our global observing system.

The most impressive feature of a weather satellite is its ability to provide an extended view of the world’s surface. This view can span several hundred to thousands of miles above the Earth’s surface and helps meteorologists spot weather systems hours to days before they reach the ground.

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