GOES-S Advanced Weather Forecasting Satellite May Solve One of Climate Change's Biggest Problems

Thursday, 01 March 2018 - 10:42AM
Science News
Thursday, 01 March 2018 - 10:42AM
GOES-S Advanced Weather Forecasting Satellite May Solve One of Climate Change's Biggest Problems
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Image credit: YouTube

If you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you might have failed to notice the fact that environmental disasters are getting more frequent.

Big storms are becoming the exception rather than the rule, and thanks to illogical weather patterns, it's increasingly difficult to spot these things as they brew—which in turn makes it a lot harder to actually prepare when a massive typhoon is barrelling down on a coastal city.

Much of the data surrounding environmental issues currently comes from NASA satellites, but with funding for these projects looking unstable at best under the current government, scientists are scrabbling to find alternative methods of keeping a close eye on storms as they develop.

Enter the GOES-S, the latest in a long line of weather monitoring satellites, that will blast off aboard the Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hoping that this new piece of equipment will be able to give us far more advanced warning of oncoming storms and other environmental disasters, thanks to a great improvement in the quality and quantity of data that can be captured over a short period of time.

What's really interesting is that this won't just be able to predict wet disasters—forest fires and other environmental dangers that take place inland as well will also be visible thanks to the satellite's crystal clear view of the Earth.

According to Tim Walsh, system program director for the GOES program:

Opening quote
"These satellites are giving us the ability to look at some storms as often as every 30 seconds, allowing forecasters to see storms as they're developing instead of after they've already taken place.

"We're seeing fires before they're reported on the ground. Some of the information we're getting from 22,300 miles away is giving us information on the ground that is incredibly vital."
Closing quote

This technology could potentially revolutionize the way that weather predictions are made.

While meteorology has always involved a certain amount of guesswork, computer models will become a lot more sophisticated over the next few years as we get even more detailed information about what happens when weather patterns form—a welcome benefit considering how many more dangerous storms we'll likely be seeing in the future.

So how does the GOES-S improve over other satellites, such as its predecessor, the GOES-R?

There's no big revolution to the way that the satellite works; it simply takes pictures of the ground more often, at a higher revolution. It also covers more different areas of the color spectrum so that we can see things that wouldn't be visible to the human eye, and, generally, helps us to keep better informed of what's going on.

Of course, we as humans can only do so much with this data, especially as more shows up. No doubt the next step will involve getting machine learning AI involved in weather prediction to a greater extent, so that we can be informed the moment warning signs start showing up for storms that might be building.

In the meantime, the other big thing that humanity could be doing in anticipation of big, global warming-related storm events, would be to attempt to reduce some of the damage that we're doing to the planet.

It's an unpopular option among policymakers, but all the telescopes in the world won't help us once man-made climate change really gets going.

Science News