Earth Day was born from former Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson’s desire to bring environmental issues to the forefront of the national political agenda. The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, was followed by the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Today, more than 1 billion people will participate in Earth Day activities, raising awareness about critical environmental issues. In celebration of Earth Day, we’re taking a look at just how far satellite imagery has come since 1970.
It’s that time again to reacquaint yourself with the health and well-being of our planet. We know what you’re thinking … but it’s not all bad news. NOAA scientists are using their expertise and innovation to help to solve Earth’s biggest challenges. Check out NOAA’s list of useful, fun and fascinating feature stories to pique your interest during Earth Day week, including one on NOAA’s newest operational satellite, GOES-17!
Coral reefs are one of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems in the world. They cover an estimated 110,000 square miles of the ocean floor and are home to more than 25 percent of marine species for at least some part of their lives. As part of this year’s Earth Day theme, “Protect Our Species,” we’re looking at how NOAA’s satellites are monitoring the effects of climate change on coral reefs around the globe. Using a combination of NOAA and international partners’ satellites, Coral Reef Watch can monitor ocean temperatures and identify areas at risk for coral bleaching. The Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) aboard the GOES-R satellite series and NOAA-20’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) provide data on ocean temperatures by looking at the infrared radiation that’s emitted from the ocean.
Scientists at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center conducted a detailed post-storm analysis on all the data available for Hurricane Michael and have determined that the storm’s estimated intensity at landfall was 160 mph. This makes Michael a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale at the time of landfall on October 10, 2018, near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Michael was the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and only the fourth on record.
Volcanic ash is a significant health, aviation, infrastructure and economic hazard. GOES East and GOES West observe a significant fraction of the most volcanically active region on Earth, known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire.” New capabilities from the GOES-16 and GOES-17 Advanced Baseline Imager and Geostationary Lightning Mapper provide improved volcanic hazard forecasting and monitoring through sophisticated new data products and automated detection tools. As forecasters gain more experience with new GOES-R Series datasets, the value of the measurements will increase significantly, resulting in safer and more efficient air transportation and a better understanding of volcanic processes and the complex relationship between volcanic emissions and weather and climate.
What does NOAA do for you? NOAA provides timely and reliable information based on sound science to communities and businesses every day. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, Americans rely on NOAA. GOES-16 and GOES-17 helped NOAA respond to extreme weather events in 2018 and contributed to improving NOAA’s observational infrastructure. View a story map version of NOAA’s 2018 Business Brief.
The GOES-R Series Program quarterly newsletter for January – March 2019 is now available. GOES-17 is now operational as GOES West and we now have advanced geostationary satellite capabilities for more than half the globe. The program remains as busy as ever, with the team continuing to work on GOES-16 and 17 data product validation, the ground system server refresh, the GOES-T/U Advanced Baseline Imager cooling system redesign, and the build of our next two satellites in order to ensure continuity of GOES-R series operations for many years to come.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is reporting an accelerated flood season across the Midwestern United States. On March 13, 2019, a winter storm system intensified and swept across much of the Central U.S., causing heavy rain, severe thunderstorms, snow, and blizzard conditions. The storm led to widespread flooding across parts of South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. New flood products, utilizing GOES-R Series and JPSS data, are helping forecasters better determine where and when flooding will occur and aiding officials in determining where to deploy resources during a flood event.
Aerospace America published an article “Saving GOES-17,” authored by John Van Naarden, Advanced Baseline Imager chief engineer at Harris Corp., and Dan Lindsey, NOAA’s senior scientific advisor to the GOES-R Program. The article outlined the issues that were discovered with the cooling system on GOES-17’s primary instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager, and efforts to improve performance of the instrument. Despite a thermal system operating at only about 5% of its capacity, ABI is now delivering more than 97% of its intended data, thanks to recovery efforts.
On April 2, 2019, the GOES-16 and GOES-17 Advanced Baseline Imagers began operating in a new scan mode, 10-minute flex mode. Ten-minute flex mode is very similar to the previous default flex mode with one exception: a full disk image is generated every 10 minutes instead of every 15 minutes. Contiguous U.S. (CONUS) for GOES-16/ Pacific U.S. (PACUS) for GOES-17 scans (3000 km by 50000 km) are still provided every five minutes, in addition to two mesoscale domains (1000 km by 1000 km) every 60 seconds (or one domain every 30 seconds if scanning the same domain). The new scan mode allows NOAA to match the full-disk scanning cadence of our international partners and will be critical to National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices, National Centers, and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers in monitoring hazardous weather conditions and providing additional information in observationally limited areas.
According to NOAA's spring flood and climate outlook, a wet winter has primed much of the Great Plains for spring flooding in 2019, with major flooding likely along the Red River of the North, the Missouri, and the Mississippi Rivers. Moderate flood risk extends upstream of those rivers to their tributaries, including the lower Ohio, the Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers. Minor flood risk covers nearly the entire country east of the Mississippi as well as parts of Washington, Oregon, and California.
Researchers are using satellite data to alert farmers and ranchers about impending flash droughts. Thermal infrared imagery from both the GOES-R Series satellites, as well as polar orbiting satellites like NOAA-20 and Suomi-NPP, is used to estimate evapotranspiration, which is a measure of how much water is being transferred from the land to the atmosphere through the soil and plants. Using a tool called the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI), it’s now possible to deliver a probabilistic forecast, like the ones we get from the National Weather Service, a month or so ahead of the onset of a flash drought. New tools and better forecasts give the agricultural sector even more options to deal with drought and can help mitigate their future impact.
The 2018 NOAA Science Report is now available. The report highlights NOAA’s research accomplishments and the vital service’s the agency provides to Americans every day. The science report spans the entire range of NOAA’s mission, and the 72 stories featured in this year’s report represent a selection of NOAA’s research and development accomplishments. The GOES-R mission is highlighted in several areas of the report, including the GOES-S (17) launch, lightning detection, solar imaging and space weather monitoring, fire detection and monitoring, flood mapping, and hurricane tracking.
Each year, NOAA helps the United States prepare for hurricanes by issuing a seasonal outlook before the official start of the season on June 1. Gerry Bell, Ph.D., from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, spoke to reporters at the National Press Club on March 5 about how NOAA creates this outlook and the climate drivers that fuel or suppress a hurricane season. Bell said the Atlantic remains in a period of increased hurricane activity that began in 1995 and generates more, stronger, and longer-lived storms. Bell also identified several global climate patterns that can drive hurricane development within that high-activity era. The Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) influences hurricane seasons over several decades and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drives year-to-year variability. “By predicting key climate patterns, we can often predict these regional hurricane-controlling conditions, and therefore predict the strength of the upcoming hurricane season,” he said.
Deadly severe wildfires in California have scientists scrutinizing the underlying factors that could influence future extreme events. Using climate simulations and paleoclimate data dating back to the 16th century, a recent study looks closely at long-term upper-level wind and related moisture patterns to find clues. New research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA examines jet stream and moisture patterns in California over a centuries-long time period—1571 to 2013. The work provides a stronger foundation and a longer-term perspective for evaluating regional natural hazards within California and the economic risks to one of the world's largest economies.
Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow conveyor belts of moisture that move through the atmosphere. Strong atmospheric rivers can deliver enormous amounts of rain and high-elevation snow in California, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, especially during the winter months. The GOES-R Series Advanced Baseline Imager provides improved detection and monitoring of atmospheric river events. Understanding and anticipating the role of atmospheric rivers is important for water and emergency management on the West Coast, particularly in California. GOES-17, recently designated NOAA’s GOES West operational satellite, is positioned to keep an eye on the western U.S., Alaska and Pacific Ocean, and provide advanced monitoring of atmospheric rivers among other weather phenomena and hazards.
In 2018, the NOAA Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system helped save 340 lives with the aid of NOAA satellites like GOES-16. In addition to carrying instruments for monitoring our atmosphere, land and oceans for severe weather and other hazards, GOES-16 also carries a SARSAT transponder to help locate people in distress. This transponder provides the capability to immediately detect distress signals from emergency beacons and relay them to ground stations. In turn, this signal is routed to a SARSAT mission control center and then sent to a rescue coordination center, which dispatches a search and rescue team to the location of the distress.
GOES-17 is now operational as NOAA’s GOES West. In its new role, GOES-17 is providing faster, more accurate, and more detailed observations for detecting and monitoring Pacific storm systems, fog, wildfires, and other weather phenomena that affect the western United States, Alaska, and Hawaii. Located at 137.2 degrees west longitude, GOES-17 replaces GOES-15 as NOAA’s operational GOES West. GOES-17 joins GOES-16, in operations as NOAA’s GOES East, in delivering high-resolution visible and infrared imagery and lightning observations of more than half the globe – from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand and from near the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle. View GOES-17 operational imagery.
For the globe, 2018 became the fourth warmest year on record and the United States experienced 14 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. These are findings from the 2018 Annual Global Climate Report from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, which is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making. Earth’s long-term warming trend continued in 2018 as persistent warmth across large swaths of land and ocean resulted in the globe’s fourth hottest year in NOAA’s 139-year climate record. The year ranks just behind 2016 (warmest), 2015 (second warmest) and 2017 (third warmest). In separate analyses of global temperatures, scientists from NASA, the United Kingdom Met Office and the World Meteorological Organization also reached the same heat ranking.
GOES East captured a partial solar eclipse on February 5, 2019. In this animation from the satellite’s Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) instrument, you can see the moon passing across the sun. A partial eclipse occurs when the sun and moon are not exactly in line with the Earth and the moon only partially obscures the sun.
On February 1, 2019, at 1:17 p.m. EST, the GOES-16 Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) detected a bright meteor over northwestern Cuba. The meteorite landed near Viñales, Pinar del Río in western Cuba. While designed for mapping lightning flashes, GLM can observe large meteors anywhere throughout its coverage area. The instrument takes 500 images of Earth every second, allowing it to measure the shape of a meteor “light curve,” or the change in brightness of a meteor with time, with millisecond precision.
The GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager also detected the airborne debris cloud as it drifted northeastward then eastward for about an hour after the impact. The signatures in the split cloud top phase and split window imagery were due to the presence of mineral dust particles within the debris cloud — the emissivity properties of dust affects the sensed brightness temperatures differently for various infrared spectral bands. The cirrus spectral band is useful for detecting the scattering of light by airborne particles such as ice crystals, volcanic ash, smoke or dust. The debris cloud was also casting a subtle shadow onto the surface, as seen in the visible imagery.
The GOES-R Series Program quarterly newsletter for the time period October – December 2018 is now available. GOES-17 completed its Handover Readiness Review and the program handed the satellite over to NOAA’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations. GOES-17 is now in its operational location at 137.2 west and is providing stunning imagery of the U.S. West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, and even New Zealand. The satellite is ready for operations as NOAA’s GOES West.
This conference merges three satellite conferences into one major event. NOAA, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Satellite Meteorology, Oceanography, and Climatology (SatMetOC), and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) will hold a joint conference September 29 – October 4, 2019, in Boston. Abstract submissions are due on March 1, 2019.