Meteorology’s Newest “Toy”: GOES-16!

Meteorology’s Newest “Toy”: GOES-16!
by Gail Hartfield

The launch of GOES-R, its establishment as GOES-16, and the subsequent release of the first images spurred a lot of excitement among those in the meteorological community—with good reason. In much the same way the move from the WSR-57/74 to the WSR-88D radars revolutionized the storm interrogation and warning processes, the new and improved capabilities of GOES-16 promise major changes in how we observe the atmosphere.

The reality of GOES-16 has indeed been a long time coming. Development of the GOES-R spacecraft began in 2009, although the folks at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been blogging about GOES-R and its upcoming innovations since 2006. In addition to this and other blogs, there has been an abundance of helpful training provided by CIMSS, the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University, COMET’s MetEd program, the National Weather Service, the GOES-R Proving Ground consortium, and others to help prepare operational meteorologists for the new imagery and tools to come. Much of this training makes use of high-resolution imagery from the MODIS and Himawari satellites as a proxy for GOES-16 imagery, and many are freely available (including some on YouTube). I highly encourage all operational forecasters to check them out so they can learn how to take advantage of the new capabilities.

An image of all 16 channels of GOES-16 imagery from May 7, 2017 (data preliminary and non-operational).

Since GOES-16 data began flowing earlier this year after the spacecraft’s launch in late 2016, meteorologists have been treated to spectacular imagery (in test mode) that showcases the high temporal (full disk every 15 minutes, continental U.S. at least every 5 minutes, and sometimes every 30 seconds) and spatial (0.5 to 2 km) resolution that, in time, is likely to alter forecast and warning practices. Convective cloud tops will be monitored for height and phase changes. Three water vapor channels will be used to assess the vertical moisture distribution and identify jet streaks. Smoke plumes from wildfires will be easily tracked. Channel difference fields will allow for improved detection and monitoring of fog and stratus. And data from instruments like the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), which provides important lightning character, density, and trend information, may add crucial minutes to warning lead times boosting public safety. These are just a few of the many benefits that GOES-16 channels and products will provide to meteorologists from all sectors. It will be fascinating to see how this new information is used for the severe weather season this spring, not to mention summertime MCSs, the upcoming tropical season, and the inevitable bombing winter storms in the winter months.

GOES-16 is still in experimental mode as the instruments are being tested and calibrated, but you can see non-operational imagery via the College of DuPage, CIRA’s Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch (RAMMB), NOAA/NESDIS, and NASA’s Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center. Please feel free to share some of your early impressions and uses of this data by messaging the NWA on Facebook and Twitter (@NWAS).

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