NOAA Experiments Help Build A Better Forecast

Holly Obermeier, meteorologist at KETV-TV in Omaha, Nebraska, issues a tornado warning after utilizing the GOES-R ProbSevere product. Image Credit: Holly Obermeier

Holly Obermeier, meteorologist at KETV-TV in Omaha, Nebraska, issues a tornado warning after utilizing the GOES-R ProbSevere product. Image Credit: Holly Obermeier

June 29, 2015 – NOAA satellite experts and weather forecasters are working together at the Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) in Norman, Oklahoma, to prepare to use data from the GOES-R satellite to improve short-range hazardous weather forecasts and warning decision-making. From May 4 to June 12 (during the height of severe weather season), NOAA invited National Weather Service forecasters and paired them with TV broadcast meteorologists to evaluate the new science, technology and products that will be available from GOES-R, the latest geostationary weather satellite built at Lockheed Martin Corporation’s Littleton, Colorado facility.

Each week of the experiment, researchers and forecasters worked side-by-side to evaluate new products and tools and participated in experimental forecast and warning generation exercises. This approach prepares weather forecasters to use the new capabilities that will be available from NOAA’s next generation of weather satellites, the GOES-R series.

NOAA’s current GOES-14 satellite was brought out of storage-mode in its central orbit and operated in Super Rapid Scan Operations (SRSO) mode, providing special one-minute satellite imagery that simulates the capabilities that will be available with the GOES-R series satellites.

Participating forecasters found the GOES-R severe weather products and one-minute imagery very helpful when evaluating potential storms and issuing warnings.

Holly Obermeier, meteorologist with KETV-TV in Omaha, Nebraska, is excited about the lightning data that will be available from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, built by Lockheed Martin. The GOES-R satellite will be the first flight of this sophisticated instrument in geostationary orbit and will enable early predictions of intensifying storms and severe weather events.

“Having total lightning is an exciting step and I’m really looking forward to having this data,” Obermeier said. “It’s an excellent on-air visual that viewers can easily understand.”

John Boyer, meteorologist at KOKI-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma, summed up his experience, “I’m very grateful for my HWT experience. I’m confident in the value of GOES-R and how to work that information into better knowledge of storms. Going forward, the rich, detailed visible animations will be an essential, compelling part of the weather story.”

The GOES-R satellite is slated to launch in March 2016 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Once launched, the satellite will be known as GOES-16 and will immediately be placed in a test location at 89.5 degrees West longitude for an extended checkout period. During post-launch testing and validation, the GOES-R satellite will provide observations throughout the 2016 hurricane season. At the conclusion of checkout, the satellite permanent location will be determined based on the health and performance of the other GOES satellites in NOAA’s constellation.

The GOES-R Series Program is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA to develop, deploy and operate the next-generation of geostationary environmental satellites. The GOES-R series satellites will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere and space weather monitoring to provide critical atmospheric, hydrologic, oceanic, climatic, solar and space data. GOES-R products will improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts, increase thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time, improve aviation flight route planning, provide data for long-term climate variability studies, improve solar flare warnings for communications and navigation disruptions and enhance space weather monitoring.

GOES-14 visible one-minute imagery showing the evolution of a tornado over Eastern Colorado on June 4‒5, 2015. Credit: NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison