After tracking a series of atmospheric rivers that have drenched California this year, NOAA satellites monitored the latest storm to begin impact the state on Mar. 19, 2023. Rain and snow triggered flash flooding, caused numerous evacuations and left over 350,000 without power. The atmospheric river fueled a mid-latitude cyclone that led to the formation of a hurricane-like eye when two low pressure areas converged over San Francisco. NOAA satellites provided vital information about airborne moisture for more accurate weather forecasts and to predict flood risks and manage water resources.
Since mid-February 2023, winter weather has impacted the continental U.S. from California to Maine. In Southern California, the storm brought blizzard conditions to the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains as well as heavy rainfall to lower elevations. As the storm system continued eastward, snow and driving winds caused road closures and drifting snow across the Plains. Further south in Kansas and Oklahoma, tornadoes downed power lines, damaged property, and caused injuries. Additional tornadoes were reported in central and northeastern Illinois. The storm also brought heavy snow to the Northeast. NOAA satellites provided complementary measurements for a complete picture of this monumental storm and played a crucial role in tracking the storms across the U.S., alerting those in harm’s way.
On Feb. 21, 2023, Tropical Cyclone Freddy made landfall on Madagascar. Freddy formed on Feb. 5 near Indonesia and trekked more than 4,000 miles before hitting Madagascar. Freddy is one of only four storms on record to cross the Indian Ocean from east to west. It is also the first in the Southern Hemisphere to undergo four separate rounds of rapid intensification. At its strongest, Freddy had maximum sustained winds of more than 160 miles per hour, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. NOAA satellites and those from our international partners monitored the storm as it traversed the Indian Ocean and made landfall in Madagascar.
At least 231 wildfires have been blazing through south-central Chile since Feb. 3, 2023. The region is experiencing a “mega drought” with a decade-long period of dry weather. NOAA satellites are monitoring the fires as hot and dry weather persists. As of Feb. 8, 231 fires have burned more than 741,315 acres of land, making it the second worst year for acreage burned in Chile. GOES-16 and GOES-18 observed the movement of smoke from the fires in near-real time, while identifying new fires. The satellites also help determine a fire’s size and temperature. NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP provide detailed information on fire conditions. The satellites can detect smaller and lower-temperature fires and track wildfires in remote regions. Together, NOAA satellites provide critical and timely information used by fire crews, first responders and air traffic controllers.
We’re spreading the love again this Valentine's Day with a new collection of satellite-themed holiday cards. Circulate and celebrate with us by sharing these cards with your Earth-bound sweetie! The sentiment GOES a long way. Download the Valentines.
On Jan. 25, 2023, NOAA satellites captured an unusually long and long-lived rope cloud produced by a cold front over the Gulf of Mexico. A rope cloud is a very long, narrow, rope-like band of cumulus cloud formations. Generally associated with a cold front or a land-sea breeze front, rope clouds tend to form at the dividing line between cooler and warmer air. In this case, the rush of cool, dense air from the cold front pushed the warm, maritime air from the Gulf of Mexico upward, allowing water vapor to condense and the cloud to form. Satellite imagery can capture rope clouds, indicating a potentially changing weather pattern.
From late Dec. 2022 into Jan. 2023, a series of nine “atmospheric rivers” dumped a record amount of rain and mountain snow across the western U.S. and Canada, hitting California particularly hard. More than 32 trillion gallons of water rained down across the state, and the moisture also pushed into much of the Intermountain West. The San Francisco Bay area experienced its wettest three-week period in 161 years. Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow belts of moisture that move through the atmosphere. They can deliver tremendous amounts of rain, and high-elevation snow. This deluge of rain can provide relief for drought-stricken areas but also trigger flash flooding and mudslides. NOAA satellites help forecast these rivers in the sky and monitor the weather conditions they bring.
NOAA satellites, which are crucial in weather and climate forecasts, helped rescue 397 people from potentially life-threatening situations throughout the U.S. and its surrounding waters in 2022. NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the global Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking system, or COSPAS-SARSAT, which uses a network of U.S. and international spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals sent from emergency beacons from aircraft, boats and handheld Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) anywhere in the world. Of the 397 U.S. rescues last year, 275 were water rescues, 42 were from downed aircraft and 80 were on land involving PLBs. Florida had the most SARSAT rescues with 106, followed by Alaska with 56 and Utah with 20.
The GOES-R/GeoXO quarterly newsletter for October – December 2022 is now available. The GOES-R and GeoXO programs achieved new heights in 2022. We launched GOES-T, now known as GOES-18, completed on-orbit checkout, executed two GOES-17 and GOES-18 data interleave periods, and handed the satellite over to NOAA’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations. GOES-18 became NOAA’s operational GOES West satellite on Jan. 4, 2023. GOES-U is progressing toward its planned launch next spring, completing thermal vacuum testing and preparing for mechanical testing. And the future of NOAA’s geostationary satellite observations is assured, with the approval of the GeoXO Program.
NOAA’s operational satellite fleet has a new member. GOES-18 entered service as GOES West on Jan. 4, 2023. The milestone comes after a Mar. 1, 2022, launch and post-launch testing of the satellite’s instruments, systems, and data. GOES-18 replaces GOES-17 as GOES West, located 22,236 miles above the equator over the Pacific Ocean. GOES-17 will become an on-orbit standby. In its new role, GOES-18 will serve as NOAA's primary geostationary satellite for detecting and monitoring Pacific hurricanes, atmospheric rivers, coastal fog, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and other environmental phenomena that affect the western contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America. GOES-18 joins GOES-16 (GOES East) in operational service. Together the two satellites watch over more than half the globe, from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand and from near the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle.