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GOES 16 Spectral Satellite Imagery – Earth Woke Up Like This

23 Oct 2017, 2:00 pm


Every morning NOAA’s GOES16 Satellite takes in an amazing view of Earth. Here are three snapshots showcasing some of the most interesting spectral bands the satellites use to send information about our planet.

Created by our partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, the experimental GeoColor imagery displays geostationary satellite data in different ways depending on whether it is day or night. This loop, captured just after daylight moves across the Earth, offers a blend of both, with nighttime features being replaced by daytime. In nighttime, liquid water clouds appear in shades of blue, ice clouds are grayish-white, water looks black, and land appears gray. The city lights are a static background created with VIIRS Day/Night Band imagery. It does not show any existing power outages. In daytime, clouds, land, and water features appear as they do in true color imagery.

This particular imagery is very unique; it was captured on the morning of September 8, 2017 and the triple threat of Hurricane Katia (far left), Hurricane Irma (center), and Hurricane Jose (right) can be seen. Irma made landfall in Florida and resulted in billions of dollars in damages. NOAA’s GOES-16 imagery helped FEMA and first responders forecast the paths of the storms, assess damage, and plan for a safe return for people evacuated from their homes.

GOES-16 observes Earth from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles high, creating full disk images like these, extending from the coast of West Africa to Hawaii, and everything in between.

Please note: GOES-16 data are currently experimental and under going testing and hence should not be used operationally.

The first instrument of its kind in geostationary orbit, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (or GLM) observes total lightning (both in-cloud and cloud-to-ground) and provides a constant vigil for lightning flashes day and night across the Western Hemisphere.

Rapid increases in the amount lightning are often a signal that a thunderstorm is strengthening and could become more dangerous. In concert with other tools, the lightning mapper will help provide more accurate and earlier warnings of developing severe storms and give communities more time to prepare for impending severe weather.

This imagery was captured on April 5, 2017 and shows a unique satellite view of the severe thunderstorms in the southeastern United States. According to NOAA’s National Weather Service, numerous thunderstorms developed in several waves across the region on that day ahead of a strong springtime storm system.  These thunderstorms produced large hail, gusty winds, heavy rainfall, as well as 7 tornadoes in the NWS Atlanta forecast area. The strongest tornadoes were rated EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale and were spawned by the same long-lived supercell that traversed across central Georgia. In addition to the tornadoes, heavy rainfall led to flash flooding incidents, primarily in the Atlanta metro area where some locations received over 4″ of rainfall.

GLM collects information such as the frequency, location and extent of lightning discharges to identify intensifying thunderstorms and tropical cyclones. Trends in total lightning available from the GLM have the promise of providing critical information to forecasters, allowing them to focus on developing severe storms much earlier and before these storms produce damaging winds, hail or even tornadoes.

To learn more about GLM and how it will improve the forecasting of dangerous weather, go to

Infrared satellite imagery, which detects heat radiating off of clouds and the surface of the Earth, can be “colorized” or “color-enhanced” to bring out certain aspects of the data. These color enhancements are useful to meteorologists because the colors enable them to pinpoint items of interest, such as cloud-top height. In this imagery, the darker areas signify taller clouds, which correlate with more intense areas of the storm.

The animation is from September 5, 2017 and shows Hurricane Irma on its approach to the United States. Irma was a powerful and devastating storm which reached Category 5 Major Hurricane status.

This loop was created with Band-13, one of the new spectral bands offered by GOES-16’s Advanced Baseline Imager. Band-13, the so-called “clean” longwave infrared band, is primarily used to monitor clouds and storm intensity.

As shown here, the imagery produced by this band offers detailed views of meteorological phenomena, such as the colder cloud tops (shown in green/yellow/red), which are associated with more intense storm activity.

Edited for WeatherNation by Meteorologist Mace Michaels

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