NASA’s new satellites providing more data

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In November of 2017, NASA launched its newest polar orbital JPSS-1 weather satellite, which has been renamed NOAA-20. Since that time, the satellite has been declared fully operational by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The new satellite circles the Earth 14 times a day and provides more detailed imagery of our planet twice a day. Forecasters believe this new high-resolution satellite will be better to track developing storms in the Gulf of Alaska, the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Scientists believe that “forecasts from these remote regions are critical for the U.S. fishing, energy, transportation and recreation industries, which operate in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.”

The new NOAA-20 has been equipped with new and advanced instruments that are expected to increase the accuracy of three- to seven-day forecasts. According to NOAA, the JPSS-1 has an imaging radiometer suite called VIIRS, that “generates many critical environmental products pertaining to snow and ice cover, clouds, fog, aerosols, fire, smoke plumes, dust, vegetation health, phytoplankton abundance and chlorophyll.”

NASA has other satellites currently monitoring North America that include the GOES-14, GOES-15 and GOES-16.

The development of weather satellites began as early as 1946. This was due to very little data observations and the expense of using cloud cameras on rockets.

The first weather satellite was called the Vanguard 2 and was launched on Feb. 17, 1959. Although the equipment functioned properly, its poor axis and elliptical orbit kept it from collecting useful data. It was designed to measure cloud cover during the daylight hours. The TIROS-1 was launched on April 1, 1960, and was considered to be the first “successful” weather satellite that operated for more than 78 days.

Weather forecasting was helped in a big way by the Nimbus series of seven satellites that were in operation from 1964 to 1978. This series of satellites also paved the way for our modern GPS system, which I can no longer live without. In 1969, the Nimbus 3 satellite was used to collect temperature information from the eastern Atlantic and much of the Pacific Ocean. This led to significant improvements in weather forecasting.

Most satellites used for weather forecasting are the GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) series that began in 1974, which also supports severe storm tracking and meteorology research.

On March 1, 2018, the new GOES-17 was launched that included four space weather instruments, a lightning mapper and new instrument called the Advanced Baseline Imager. The ABI provides detailed images of weather patterns across the Western Hemisphere from visible light to infrared images.

However, NOAA recently discovered a problem with its cooling system which prohibits the ABI from functioning during nighttime hours. The short-term delay is not expected to affect weather monitoring as the GOES-16, GOES-15 and GOES-14 still cover North America.

NASA has also recently announced additional JPSS-type satellites that will be launched in the coming years. Also, two additional and more sophisticated GOES satellites are expected for launch in 2020 and in 2024.

There are a lot of active satellites orbiting the Earth. It’s estimated there are about 1,100 private and government ones that are operational. But, there are around 2,600 additional satellites in space that no longer work.

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In terms of the region’s weather, temperatures last week did climb into the 80s in Coeur d’Alene and across the rest of the Inland Empire. But, we still haven’t hit the 90-degree mark as we’re on the edge of the cooler air mass over Canada.

The hot weather has been over the center of the country as near-record highs in the 90s, along with high humidity levels, were reported in places like Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa. It was Chicago’s hottest Father’s Day since 1995 as the mercury soared to a high of 95 degrees with heat index readings in the low to mid 100s.

With the searing heat that moved in from the south and cooler air from Canada, the collisions did bring strong thunderstorms across northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Flash flooding washed out some major roads and highways, especially U.S. Highway 2 across northwestern Wisconsin.

For this week, conditions are looking mostly dry and breezy at times with highs in the 70s to near 80 degrees. It also looks like we’ll have a chance of showers and a few thunderstorms late this week. Our monthly precipitation total for June is about 1.50 inches, with the normal at 1.93 inches. We could come to that normal figure at the end of the month.

In early- to mid-July, we could see much warmer weather and start to challenge that first day with highs near 90 degrees. The next chance for temperatures to be that warm would be around the Fourth of July through the 13th of next month. For the rest of the summer season, it still looks drier than normal, but Cliff and I don’t expect to see the extremely long dry spells like we did last year.

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Contact Randy Mann at

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