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article imageNOAA's GOES satellites: Eyes in the sky tracking hurricanes

By Karen Graham     Sep 11, 2018 in Science
Tonight, as three powerful storms march across the Atlantic Ocean, toward the East Coast of the U.S. and Caribbean, another powerful storm is poised to roll over Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. All these storms are being monitored by "eyes-in-the-sky."
While people on the ground are preparing for floods, high winds and surging waves, satellites and astronauts in orbit are looking down on the storm from above. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) GOES weather satellites and astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) are our "eyes-in-the-sky - monitoring storms in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The GOES-East weather satellite keeps a constant eye on the Atlantic Ocean, from the coast of Africa to the eastern U.S. while GOES-West is positioned over the eastern Pacific Ocean. With GOES-16 in the east and GOES-S in the west, meteorologists have high-resolution weather information for a large area of the globe, stretching from western Africa to the shores of New Zealand.
Most of our National Hurricane updates and other weather reports on severe storms and tropical cyclones are one-dimensional maps on a grid showing latitude and longitude lines in different colors, and they are absolutely essential to laying out a clear and distinct track of a storm being monitored.
But, nothing is more impressive and you could even say scary, than the imagery from the GOES satellites and cameras on the ISS. NASA released a video of the hurricane on Monday as captured by cameras mounted outside the International Space Station.
The ISS was flying 255 miles (410 kilometers) above the storm when it got the footage, which NASA describes as "dramatic." The video also includes still images from NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, who photographed the storm from the ISS.
On September 11, the GOES-East satellite used its lightning mapping technology for a video showing Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Hurricane Helene tracking across the Atlantic Ocean. You can actually see the lightning strikes as yellow blips in the video.
On the right side of this view is Helene, a Category 2 hurricane that will likely die out in the Atlantic without making landfall, according to the NHC. And in between Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Helene is the small but dangerous Tropical Storm Isaac, which was downgraded from hurricane status early Tuesday.
Going clear over to the other side of the globe, we will find Olivia, all by itself, now a Tropical Storm. A Category 4 hurricane at its strongest, Olivia spent about a week hanging around in the Pacific Ocean without making landfall before it weakened.
Get a good look at the eye of Hurricane Florence as GOES-East saw it on Monday. This was the eye of the storm before it collapsed in preparation for reorganizing on Tuesday.
Now, look at this scary looking closeup of the eye of Florence. It has all but collapsed. This image was taken Tuesday morning.
This imagery taken just a few hours ago show the eye of Hurricane Florence perfectly reformed. You can see the center very clearly.
More about GOES satellites, NOAA, Hurricanes, East and West, Technology