Satellite launched to locate weather-caused wildfires in western US

The Western Hemisphere will have new eyes in the sky to monitor extreme weather events and wildfires caused by the climate crisis after the launch of the operational geostationary environmental satellite GOES-T on Tuesday.

GOES-T is the latest in a next generation series geostationary weather satellites forecast by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency that monitors atmospheric and ocean conditions and issues weather forecasts, among other activities.

GOES-T was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will now begin moving toward its operational position 35,888 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean at Earth’s equator. At this altitude and position, the satellite’s speed matches the Earth’s rotation, allowing it to stay in one position relative to the planet’s surface.

Once in place in early 2023, GOES-T will replace the existing GOES-17 and take on the designation GEOS-18. As GOES-18, the satellite will track storms and fog over the ocean and over land from Hawaii to Alaska to California.

With a view of remote and mountainous regions not covered by radar, GOES-T will help monitor storms and fog that can disrupt airport and airline operations. It will also monitor lightning strikes that in recent years have led to unprecedented wildfires that have ravaged California.

Being able to pinpoint the initial location of a wildfire is crucial for emergency response teams battling fires and initiating evacuations.

Heat waves and drought conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating wildfires, leading to larger and more unpredictable fires.

“GOES-T joins the suite of cutting-edge technologies providing critical data and imagery to forecasters and researchers who track hazardous weather and work to build a climate-ready nation,” the administrator said. Noaa, Rick Spinrad, in a statement.

Overlapping coverage from the GOES-16 and GOES-18 weather satellites covers the entire Western Hemisphere, then some


The newly launched GOES-T satellite will work with the already operational GOES-16, which orbits just over 60 degrees further east along the equator.

The two satellites will monitor the entire Western Hemisphere with their combined field of view extending from West Africa to Eastern Australia and from Alaska to Antarctica.

The fourth satellite in the current generation of GEOS satellites, GEOS-U, is scheduled to launch in April 2024 and will focus on space weather rather than Earth’s climate.

Noaa and NASA are already studying the next generation of geostationary weather satellites, GeoXO, which should be launched in the 2030s.

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