On a perfect November night last year, an Atlas V rocket lifted the GOES-16 satellite into the skies above Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s the first in a new series of sophisticated weather satellites.

This week, NOAA released the first batch of images from the satellite, and they are incredible. Our blue marble is looking slick in this image created using some of the 16 spectral channels on the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument aboard GOES 16.

GOES 16 satellite blue marble

We get a good look at North and South America from 22,300 miles above the Earth’s surface.

GOES 16 satellite ice storm

A closer look at North America shows a major storm system rolling through the United States. Ice was the headline with this storm as accumulations topped 0.50 of an inch in some places.

GOES 16 spectral pane

Science time. Each of the panels gives meteorologists a glimpse of what’s going on across the 16 spectral channels on the ABI. The first two were captured in visible. The next four were captured in near-infrared. And the last ten were captured in infrared channels. Forecasters can use these images to see what’s going on in the atmosphere. With three times as many spectral channels, forecasters can improve their forecasts and hopefully save more lives.

Here are a few more images.

GOES 16 dust

GOES 16 satellite northeast

GOES 16 satellite moon

Nope, that last image isn’t a photoshop. Why is a weather satellite looking towards the moon? It plays a pivotal role in getting the weather satellite ready for science gathering. The GOES team use it for calibration.

GOES-16’s mission

This is the next generation of weather satellites. It’s all about more and better. More spectral channels to image the Earth at better resolutions. With GOES-16, meteorologists can create better forecasts and provide more advanced warning ahead of severe storms. And the folks at NOAA are understandably pumped.

“This is such an exciting day for NOAA! One of our GOES-16 scientists compared this to seeing a newborn baby’s first pictures — it’s that exciting for us,” said Stephen Volz Ph.D. director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth. The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts.”

GOES-16’s instruments can scan over Earth five times faster and with four times more resolution as any satellite sent to space by NOAA before.

High-resolution satellite imagery can be refreshed as quickly as every thirty seconds. The benefits of this are obvious. Forecasters can get minute by minute readouts of severe thunderstorms. Is a supercell intensifying or dying out? The answer to that question dictates the warnings issued by the National Weather Service and impacts lives in the path of the storm.

Data from GOES-16 will be used for everything from hurricanes and tornadoes to aviation forecasts.

Still, GOES-16 isn’t quite ready to start its mission yet. NOAA plans to announce the exact location for GOES-16 in May. By November, GOES-16 will be fully operational, and the data it gathers will start making its way into forecasts we see every day.

The next GOES satellite, GOES-17, is in the midst of environmental testing at a Lockheed Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado. Four satellites are being developed in this series and will keep NOAA’s geostationary coverage going strong through 2036.

Subscribe

Subscribe now to our newsletter