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How GOES-R will help to revolutionize weather forecasting

NASA is aiming to launch GOES-R, America's next-generation weather satellite, in mid- to late November to help improve weather forecasting around the world.

The $1.2 billion satellite will be the most technologically advanced in NOAA's fleet of weather satellites and will provide meteorologists with detailed information about the weather across the Western Hemisphere, specifically across North America and the Atlantic Ocean.

"Data from GOES-R will be a game changer for forecasters," NOAA said.

Artist's rendering of GOES-R. (Image/NASA)

The United States has several weather satellites in orbit, but GOES-R will stand out from the rest.

The new satellite will be capable of taking high-resolution images of the Western Hemisphere four times better than the satellites currently in use.

Instruments onboard the satellite can also take high-resolution observations of weather parameters such as wind speed, rainfall rate, snowcover and lightning.

This upgraded technology will be comparable to replacing an old, standard definition television to a brand new HD TV.

Not only will GOES-R provide higher quality information for meteorologists, but it will also send back data at a greater rate of speed.

Current weather satellites send back information about once every 30 minutes, but GOES-R will be able to send back information as often as once every 30 seconds, according to NOAA.

This can make a significant difference during extreme weather events such as tornado outbreaks, providing meteorologists with better information to help save lives and protect property.

The fully assembled GOES-R satellite with its solar array stowed, in a clean room at Lockheed Martin. (Photo/NOAA)

One of the most beneficial applications that GOES-R will be used for is forecasting for tropical systems in the Atlantic Ocean.

"One of the problems is we don't have a real good sense as to what the core of the hurricane is doing," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

Kottlowski added that it is also difficult to get information about the outer periphery of a hurricane. Information about this part of the storm helps meteorologists understand what kind of environment the tropical system is in and how likely it is to strengthen or weaken.

Meteorologists gather information from two main sources: weather satellites and flying planes through storms. The latter provides the most detailed information, but collecting information from a plane is time consuming and can be difficult if the hurricane is far away from land.

The advanced abilities of GOES-R will provide meteorologists with better information when airplanes are not able to fly into a storm to show what is going on inside of the hurricane.

Data from GOES-R will ultimately result in more accurate forecasts, allowing for more advanced warnings for people in the path of a storm.

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The next-generation satellite will help to predict not only the weather on Earth, but also the weather in space.

"Space weather observations from GOES-R will complement those from NOAA's DSCOVR mission, providing a comprehensive look at incoming solar storms," NOAA said.

These solar storms can impact power grids, telecommunications and GPS, interrupting the everyday lives of people around the globe. Solar storms are also responsible for producing spectacular aurora near the Earth's poles.

GOES-R is just the first step in producing more accurate weather forecasts.

In 2018, another weather satellite with similar capabilities, called GOES-S, will be launched, providing even more information about weather across the Western Hemisphere.

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Questions or comments? Email Brian Lada at Brian.Lada@accuweather.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter!

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