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New NOAA satellite is ‘game changer’

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The GOES-16 satellite, launched in November 2016, is now at GOES-East position and, as of Dec. 18, has officially joined the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s observational network, providing forecasters with sharper, more defined images of severe storms. hurricanes, wildfires and other weather hazards in real-time 24/7.

“GOES-16 has proven to be one of the most important tools we’ve ever developed for our weather and hazard forecasts,” stated retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, acting NOAA administrator.

From 22,300 miles above Earth, the satellite covers all of the continental U.S., Mexico and most of Canada, according to the agency. Its high resolution – four times higher than previous NOAA satellites – and views of Earth taken every 30 seconds allows forecasters to monitor how and when storms develop, to detect and monitor wildfires, and to issue timely advisories to aviation authorities on turbulence and other weather conditions that affect aircraft and passenger safety.

Even in its testing phase, the new satellite provided critical data during this year’s active hurricane season, as well as informing emergency response to wildfires in California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, according to agency officials.

“We are using the GOES-16 data in ways we planned and in ways we didn’t even imagine,” said Louis Uccellini, National Weather Service director. “GOES-16 has been a game changer for monitoring hurricanes, wildfires, severe storms, and lightning. Now that it is operational and the data is incorporated into the forecast process, we will be able to use it across all our service areas, starting with winter storms.”

GOES-16 is the first in a series of next-generation geostationary satellites in NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative. The next new NOAA satellite, GOES-S, is scheduled to launch March 1, followed by GOES-T in 2020 and GOES-U in 2024. These satellites will enable NOAA to more closely monitor weather systems over North America, South America, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, according to the agency.

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