Astronomy Cast Ep. 462: Modeling the Weather

Have you noticed that weather forecasting has gotten much better in the last few years? Thanks to weather satellites, weather stations, and better forecasting techniques. How do scientists predict the weather with any kind of accuracy days or even weeks in the future.

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Astronomy Cast Ep. 461: Measuring the Weather with Satellites

What’s the weather doing? Is it going to rain today? How much? What about temperatures? We depend on modern weather forecasting, thanks, in part to the vast network of weather satellites. What instruments do they have, what orbits do they use.

We usually record Astronomy Cast every Friday at 3:00 pm EST / 12:00 pm PST / 20:00 PM UTC. You can watch us live on AstronomyCast.com, or the AstronomyCast YouTube page.

Visit the Astronomy Cast Page to subscribe to the audio podcast!

If you would like to support Astronomy Cast, please visit our page at Patreon here – https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast. We greatly appreciate your support!

If you would like to join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew, visit their site here and sign up. They’re a great team who can help you join our online discussions!

New Age in Weather Forecasting Begins with Spectacular 1st Images from NASA/NOAA GOES-16 Observatory

GOES-16 (previously known as GOES-R) captured this view of the moon as it looked across the surface of the Earth on January 15, 2017. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. Credit: NOAA/NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – A new age has begun in the nations weather forecasting capabilities with the release today (Jan. 23) of the spectacular first images gathered by the recently launched NASA/NOAA GOES-16 observatory.

The highly advanced Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-16 (GOES-16) weather observatory lifted off two months ago atop a ULA Atlas V rocket on Nov. 19, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

GOES-16 (formerly known as GOES-R through the launch) is the first in a new series of revolutionary NASA/NOAA geostationary weather satellites that entails the first significant instrument upgrade to US weather forecasting capabilities in more than two decades.

“It will be like high-definition from the heavens,” says NOAA.

“Today’s release of the first images from #GOES16 signals the start of a new age in satellite weather observation!!!”

Thus the newly obtained and published imagery has been anxiously awaited by scientists, meteorologists and ordinary weather enthusiasts.

“This is such an exciting day for NOAA! One of our GOES-16 scientists compared this to seeing a newborn baby’s first pictures — it’s that exciting for us,” said Stephen Volz Ph.D. director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, in a statement.

“These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth. The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts.”

This image clearly shows the significant storm system that crossed North America that caused freezing and ice that resulted in dangerous conditions across the United States on January 15, 2017 resulting in loss of life. Credit: NOAA/NASA

An especially eye-popping image taken by GOES -16 from its equatorial vantage point situated in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) above Earth and published today, shows both the Earth and the Moon together – as the lead image here.

The Earth/Moon combo shot is not only fantastically pleasing to the eye, but also serves a significant scientific purpose.

“Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration,” say NOAA officials.

“GOES-16 will boost the nation’s weather observation network and NOAA’s prediction capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings.”

GOES-16 is the most advanced and powerful weather observatory ever built and will bring about a ‘quantum leap’ in weather forecasting.

“Seeing these first images from GOES-16 is a foundational moment for the team of scientists and engineers who worked to bring the satellite to launch and are now poised to explore new weather forecasting possibilities with this data and imagery,” said Volz.

“The incredibly sharp images are everything we hoped for based on our tests before launch. We look forward to exploiting these new images, along with our partners in the meteorology community, to make the most of this fantastic new satellite.”

It’s dramatic new imagery will show the weather in real time enabling critical life and property forecasting, help pinpoint evacuation zones and also save people’s lives in impacted areas of severe weather including hurricanes and tornadoes.

And the huge satellite can’t come online soon enough, as demonstrated by the severe winter weather and tornadoes that just wreaked havoc and death in various regions of the US.

Another breathtaking image product (seen below) produced by the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, built by Harris Corporation, shows a full-disc view of the Western Hemisphere in high detail — at four times the image resolution of existing GOES spacecraft.

This composite color full-disk visible image shows North and South America and was taken on January 15, 2017. It was created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument. Credit: NOAA/NASA

The 11,000 pound satellite was built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and is the first of a quartet of four identical satellites – comprising GOES-R, S, T, and U – at an overall cost of about $11 Billion. This will keep the GOES satellite system operational through 2036.

This next generation of GOES satellites will replace the currently operating GOES East and GOES West satellites.

NOAA will soon decide whether GOES-16 will replace either the East or West satellites. A decision from NOAA is expected in May. GOES-16 will be operational by November 2017 as either the GOES-East or GOES-West satellite. Of course everyone wants it first.

The next satellite is nearing assembly completion and will undergo about a year of rigorous environmental and acoustic testing before launch. It will go to whichever slot was not selected this year.

This 16-panel image shows the continental United States in the two visible, four near-infrared and 10 infrared channels on the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). These channels help forecasters distinguish between differences in the atmosphere like clouds, water vapor, smoke, ice and volcanic ash. Credit: NOAA/NASA

The six instrument science suite includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) built by Harris Corporation, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) built by Lockheed Martin, Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS), Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), and the Magnetometer (MAG).

ABI is the primary instrument and will collect 3 times more spectral data with 4 times greater resolution and scans 5 times faster than ever before – via the primary Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument – compared to the current GOES satellites.

Northeast Coast and New York Metropolitan region. On January 15, 2017 severe weather moved across the central United States before passing through the Northeast on the 16th and 17th where it resulted in wet and wintry weather for travelers across the region. Credit: NOAA/NASA

“The higher resolution will allow forecasters to pinpoint the location of severe weather with greater accuracy. GOES-16 can provide a full image of Earth every 15 minutes and one of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and scans the Earth at five times the speed of NOAA’s current GOES imagers.”

The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) being processed at Astrotech Space Operations, in Titusville, FL, in advance of successful launch on a ULA Atlas V on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R/GOES-16 will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

GOES-R launched on the massively powerful Atlas V 541 configuration vehicle, augmented by four solid rocket boosters on the first stage. As I witnessed and reported here.

Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) on ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R will deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Florida and The Caribbean. In May 2017, NOAA will announce the planned location for GOES-16. By November 2017, GOES-16 will be operational as either the GOES-East or GOES-West satellite. At its current check out location the satellite captured this image of the Caribbean and Florida. Here the satellite captures the shallows waters of the Caribbean. Credit: NOAA/NASA

Revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R Geostationary Weather Satellite Awesome Night Launch

Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) on a ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016 - as seen from the VAB roof.  GOES-R will soon deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) on a ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016 – as seen from the VAB roof. GOES-R will soon deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – GOES-R, the first in a new series of revolutionary NASA/NOAA geostationary weather satellites blasted off on an awesome nighttime launch to orbit this evening from the Florida Space Coast.

Liftoff of the highly advanced Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) weather observatory bolted atop a ULA Atlas V rocket came at 6:42 p.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The launch was delayed for an hour until the very end of the launch window to deal with unexpected technical and Eastern range issues, that only added more drama and changed the sunset launch into a night launch for the hordes of spectators who gathered here from around the world – appropriate since this probe will touch the lives of humans world wide.

“It’s a dramatic leap in capability – like moving from black and white TV to HDTV,” explained Greg Mandt, the NOAA GOES-R program manager during a prelaunch media briefing in the cleanroom processing facility at Astrotech.

“This is a very exciting time,” explained Greg Mandt, the NOAA GOES-R program manager during the Astrotech cleanroom briefing.

“This is the culmination of about 15 years of intense work for the great team of NOAA and NASA and our contractors Lockheed Martin and Harris.”

“We are bringing the nation a new capability. The GOES program has been around for about 40 years and most every American sees it every night on the weather broadcasts when they see go to the satellite imagery. And what’s really exciting is that for the first time in that 40 years we are really end to end replacing the entire GOES system. The weather community is really excited about what we are bringing.”

GOES-R will bring about a “quantum leap” in weather forecasting capabilities that will soon lead to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings for the Earth’s Western Hemisphere when it becomes fully operational in about a year.

But the first images are expected within weeks! And both researchers and weather forecasters can’t wait to see, analyze and put to practical use the sophisticated new images and data that will improve forecasts and save lives during extreme weather events that are occurring with increasing frequency.

Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) on ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.  GOES-R will deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) on ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R will deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

GOES-R will be renamed GOES-16 after it reaches its final orbit 22,000 above Earth about two weeks from now.

Over the next year, teams of engineers and scientists will check out and validate the state of the art suite of six science instruments that also includes the first operational lightning mapper in geostationary orbit – dubbed the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM).

“The launch of GOES-R represents a major step forward in terms of our ability to provide more timely and accurate information that is critical for life-saving weather forecasts and warnings,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“It also continues a decades-long partnership between NASA and NOAA to successfully build and launch geostationary environmental satellites.”
GOES-R, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series – is a new and advanced transformational weather satellite that will vastly enhance the quality, speed and accuracy of weather forecasting available to forecasters for Earth’s Western Hemisphere.

The science suite includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS), Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), and the Magnetometer (MAG).

ABI is the primary instrument and will collect 3 times more spectral data with 4 times greater resolution and scans 5 times faster than ever before – via the primary Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument – compared to the current GOES satellites.

So instead of seeing weather as it was, viewers will see weather as it is.

Whereas the current GOES-NOP imagers scan the full hemispheric disk in 26 minutes, the new GOES-ABI can simultaneously scan the Western Hemisphere every 15 minutes, the Continental U.S. every 5 minutes and areas of severe weather every 30-60 seconds.

Launch of NASA/NOAA GOES-R weather observatory on ULA Atlas V on Nov. 19, 2016 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Julian Leek
Launch of NASA/NOAA GOES-R weather observatory on ULA Atlas V on Nov. 19, 2016 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Julian Leek

“The next generation of weather satellites is finally here,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan.

“GOES-R will strengthen NOAA’s ability to issue life-saving forecasts and warnings and make the United States an even stronger, more resilient weather-ready nation.”

Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) on a ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016 - as seen from the VAB roof.  GOES-R will soon deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Blastoff of revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) on a ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016 – as seen from the VAB roof. GOES-R will soon deliver a quantum leap in America’s weather forecasting capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

It is designed to last for a 15 year orbital lifetime.

The 11,000 pound satellite was built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and is the first of a quartet of four identical satellites – comprising GOES-R, S, T, and U – at an overall cost of about $11 Billion. This will keep the GOES satellite system operational through 2036.

Today’s launch was the 10th of the year for ULA and the 113th straight successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

GOES-R launched on the Atlas V 541 configuration vehicle, augmented by four solid rocket boosters on the first stage. The payload fairing is 5 meters (16.4 feet) in diameter. The first stage is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. And the Centaur upper stage is powered by a single-engine Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine.

This was only the fourth Atlas V launch employing the 541 configuration.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) is poised for launch on a ULA Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.  GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) is poised for launch on a ULA Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Launch of NASA/NOAA GOES-R weather observatory on ULA Atlas V on Nov. 19, 2016 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, as seen from Playalinda beach. Credit: Jillian Laudick
Launch of NASA/NOAA GOES-R weather observatory on ULA Atlas V on Nov. 19, 2016 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, as seen from Playalinda beach. Credit: Jillian Laudick

………….

Learn more about GOES-R weather satellite, Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, OSIRIS-REx, InSight Mars lander, ULA, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions, Juno at Jupiter, SpaceX AMOS-6 & CRS-9 rocket launch, ISS, ULA Atlas and Delta rockets, Orbital ATK Cygnus, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Nov 19-20: “GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-Rex, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions to the ISS, Juno at Jupiter, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Sunset Saturday Blastoff of GOES-R Set to Deliver Quantum Leap in Weather Forecasting on Nov. 19 – Watch Live

The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) is poised for launch on a ULA Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.  GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) is poised for launch on a ULA Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – From both the technical and weather standpoint, the outlook is outstanding for Saturdays sunset blastoff of the NASA/NOAA GOES-R geostationary weather observation satellite that’s set to deliver a ‘quantum leap’ in weather forecasting on Nov. 19.

Everything is progressing as planned toward liftoff of the school bus sized GOES-R weather satellite atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 5:42 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just about 17 minutes after sunset.

“GOES-R offers a quantum leap above prior weather satellites, the greatest in 40 years,” said Steve Volz, assistant administrator, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, at the prelaunch news briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

“GOES-R will be revolutionary with faster, more accurate forecasts and more lives saved.”

“It will take our capability for life saving forecasts to a new level and it will be a game changer.”

GOES-R, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series – is a new and advanced transformational weather satellite that will vastly enhance the quality, speed and accuracy of weather forecasting available to forecasters for Earth’s Western Hemisphere.

It will collect 3 times more spectral data with 4 times greater resolution and scans 5 times faster than ever before – via the primary Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument instrument – compared to the current GOES satellites.

So instead of seeing weather as it was, viewers will see weather as it is.

Whereas the current GOES-NOP imagers scan the full hemispheric disk in 26 minutes, the new GOES-ABI can simultaneously scan the Western Hemisphere every 15 minutes, the Continental U.S. every 5 minutes and areas of severe weather every 30-60 seconds.

The soar to space should be spectacular for locals and tourists gathering from around the world to view the launch now slated for less than 24 hours from now.

The launch window opens at 5:42 p.m.

The launch window extends for an hour from 5:42-6:42 p.m. EST.

Following a short delay, the Atlas V with GOES bolted on top was rolled out to pad 41 this morning, Friday, November. 18.

GOES-R is GO for launch.

NASA’s GOES-R launch coverage will be broadcast on NASA TV beginning at 4:45 p.m. EDT Nov. 19.

You can watch the launch live at NASA TV at – http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Coverage will conclude after spacecraft separation from the Centaur and the GOES-R solar arrays are deployed, which occurs approximately 3 ½ hours after launch. At that time the spacecraft initial state of health can be determined and will be confirmed on the air. There is no planned post-launch news conference.

The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) is encapsulated in the nose cone of a ULA Atlas V and rolls out for launch from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.  GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) is encapsulated in the nose cone of a ULA Atlas V and rolls out for launch from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The weather forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for Saturday’s sunset blastoff. The primary concern is for cumulous clouds.

In the event of a 24 hour delay, the weather forecast shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions on Sunday, Nov. 20.

The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series) is encapsulated in the nose cone of a ULA Atlas V set for launch from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.  GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) is encapsulated in the nose cone of a ULA Atlas V set for launch from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016. GOES-R will be America’s most advanced weather satellite. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

GOES-R is the first in a new series of American’s most powerful and most advanced next generation weather observation satellites. It is designed to last for a 15 year orbital lifetime.

The 11,000 pound satellite was built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and is the first of a quartet of four identical satellites – comprising GOES-R, S, T, and U – at an overall cost of about $11 Billion. This will keep the GOES satellite system operational through 2036.

GOES-R will blastoff on a ULA Atlas V in the very powerful 541 configuration, augmented by four solid rocket boosters on the first stage. The payload fairing is 5 meters (16.4 feet) in diameter and the upper stage is powered by a single-engine Centaur.

It will be launched to a Geostationary orbit some 22,300 miles above Earth.

Side view of NASA/NOAA GOES-R next gen weather observation satellite showing solar panels and instruments inside Astrotech Space Operations cleanroom, in Titusville, FL. Launch is set for Nov. 19, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Side view of NASA/NOAA GOES-R next gen weather observation satellite showing solar panels and instruments inside Astrotech Space Operations cleanroom, in Titusville, FL. Launch is set for Nov. 19, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The gigantic school bus sized satellite is equipped with a suite of six instruments or sensors that are the most advanced of their kind. They will be used for three types of observations: Earth sensing, solar imaging, and space environment measuring. They will point to the Earth, the Sun and the in-situ environment of the spacecraft.

The suite includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS), Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), and the Magnetometer (MAG).

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

GOES-R weather observation satellite instrument suite. Credit: NASA/NOAA
GOES-R weather observation satellite instrument suite. Credit: NASA/NOAA
Tim Gasparinni, GOES-R program manager for Lockheed Martin, and Ken Kremer/University Today pose with GOES-R revolutionary weather satellite inside Astrotech Space Operations cleanroom, in Titusville, FL, and built by NASA/NOAA/Lockheed Martin/Harris. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Tim Gasparinni, GOES-R program manager for Lockheed Martin, and Ken Kremer/University Today pose with GOES-R revolutionary weather satellite inside Astrotech Space Operations cleanroom, in Titusville, FL, and built by NASA/NOAA/Lockheed Martin/Harris. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Monster Blizzard of 2016 Strikes US East Coast, Tracked by NASA and NOAA Satellites

NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite snapped this image of the approaching blizzard around 2:35 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2016 using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument's Day-Night band.   Credit: NOAA/NASA
NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite snapped this image of the approaching blizzard around 2:35 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2016 using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument’s Day-Night band. Credit: NOAA/NASA

NEW JERSEY- The monstrous ‘Blizzard of 2016’ predicted by weather forecasters for days has struck a wide swath of the US East Coast from the Gulf coast to the Carolinas to New York and soon into New England, with full fury today, Friday, Jan. 22.

NASA and NOAA satellites are tracking the storm which is already inundating the biggest population centers, affecting some 85 million people in 20 states up and down the Atlantic Coast, as it moves in a northeasterly direction.

This afternoon, NASA and NOAA released a series of eyepopping satellite images showing the massive extent of the storm, which may drop historic amounts of snow on Washington DC and other cities over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The two agencies released a particularly striking image, shown above, showing the storm swarming over virtually the entire eastern half of the continental US as it was barreling towards the East coast cites.

It was taken Friday afternoon by the NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite showing the approaching blizzard around 2:35 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2016 using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument’s Day-Night band.

States of Emergency have been declared by Governors of states from the mid-Atlantic to New England, including North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the list is growing.

The heaviest snowfall is expected in and around Washington DC with estimates of 24 inches of snow or more. 18 to 24 inches may fall along the metropolitan Northeast corridor on Baltimore, Philadelphia, Trenton and New York City.

This visible image from NOAA's GOES-East satellite at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) on Jan. 22, 2016 shows the major winter storm now affecting the U.S. East coast.  Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
This visible image from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) on Jan. 22, 2016 shows the major winter storm now affecting the U.S. East coast. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

The heavy, blinding snow was already hitting Virginia and Washington by Friday afternoon. Governors, Mayors and Federal officials warned drivers to get off the roads by early Friday afternoon.

Stay off the roadways !!

Widespread treacherous driving with icy roads, sleet, rain, low visibility and whiteout conditions are causing numerous auto accidents as the blizzard bashes the region.

“The winter storm that caused damage during the night along the Gulf Coast has deepened and has started to spread heavy rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow northward into the Mid-Atlantic region. NASA’s GPM and NOAA’s GOES satellites are providing data on rainfall, cloud heights, extent and movement of the storm” wrote NASA’s Rob Gutro in an update on Friday.

On January 22 at 1329 UTC (8:29 a.m. EST) the GPM core satellite saw precipitation falling at a rate of over 64 mm (2.5 inches) per hour in storms over northern Alabama.  Credits: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce
On January 22 at 1329 UTC (8:29 a.m. EST) the GPM core satellite saw precipitation falling at a rate of over 64 mm (2.5 inches) per hour in storms over northern Alabama. Credits: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce

The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland said “An area of low pressure centered over the southeastern U.S. will continue developing into a major winter storm which will impact a large portion of the East Coast from the southern Appalachians through the Mid-Atlantic States from Friday into the weekend. Snowfall totals may exceed 2 feet in portions of these areas, including the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas.”

The monster storm has already caused at least ten deaths. Thousands of motorists are stranded.

High winds up to 55 mph are expected to batter the New Jersey shore, causing significant beach erosion, coastal flooding and property destruction in the same areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Thousands of people have been evacuated.

The blizzard has also impacted the US Presidential campaigns and forced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to temporary cancel campaign appearances in New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday, to deal first hand with the storm back home.

Heavy ice and snow accumulations could cause falling tress resulting in downed power lines and days long power outages during brutally cold temperatures.

Here’s a cool supercomputer animation model:

Video caption: A NASA Center for Climate Simulation supercomputer model that shows the flow of #Blizzard2016 thru Sunday, January 24, 2015. Credit: NASA

Many airports have been closed and some seven thousand flights have also been canceled.

The storm is expected to last into Sunday, Jan. 24

Looking massive from space....  This view of the winter storm over the eastern United States was captured on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 1:55 pm ET via the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite.   Credit: NASA/Goddard/Suomi NPP/VIIRS
Looking massive from space…. This view of the winter storm over the eastern United States was captured on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 1:55 pm ET via the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Suomi NPP/VIIRS

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Deadly Monster Winter Storm Batters US Eastern Seaboard – More Snow and Ice on the Way!

This visible image of the winter storm over the U.S. south and East Coast was taken by NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 13 at 1455 UTC/9:45 a.m. EST. Snow covered ground can be seen over the Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
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A deadly monster storm is battering virtually the entire US Eastern seaboard today, Thursday, Feb. 13, as it moves from the Southeast to the Northeast and into the New England states, wreaking havoc and causing miserable weather conditions for over 100 million Americas.

This afternoon, NASA and NOAA published a new image taken by a GOES satellite that showed the extent of the clouds associated with the massive winter storm over the US East Coast – see above and below.

Blizzard, white out and slippery conditions have already caused more than 18 deaths.

The killer storm has brought relentless waves of snow, sleet and ice over the past two days covering a vast swath stretching from inland to coastal areas as it moved up from the southern to northern states.

More than a foot of snow has already fallen in many areas today stretching from the Mid-Atlantic into the entire Northeast region.

Several states have declared states of emergency.

This is the season’s 12th snow storm. In many Northeast localities, the accumulated snowfall totals are three times the normal average. As a result many municipalities are running out of road salt.

And to add insult to injury, much more icy snow is falling overnight into Friday on top of the massive existing mounds and piles of frozen ice and snow that’s accumulated over the past few weeks of subfreezing temperatures.

There are also predictions for patches of “thunder snow” — which is a snow storm mixed with thunder and lightning!

Full disk image of the winter storm over the U.S. south and East Coast was taken by NOAA's GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 13 at 1455 UTC/9:45 a.m. EST. Credit:  NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Full disk image of the winter storm over the U.S. south and East Coast was taken by NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 13 at 1455 UTC/9:45 a.m. EST. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Incredibly, another round of snow is forecast for Saturday.

Much of the I-95 corridor where I also live has been especially hard hit.

The image above was created from data captured by NOAA’s GOES-East satellite today, Feb. 13 at 1455 UTC/9:45 a.m. EST by a team from the NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

“The clouds and fallen snow data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite were overlaid on a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites,” said NASA in a statement.

An eight months pregnant 36 year old women was tragically killed in New York City accident today by a snowplow. Thank God the unborn baby was saved and delivered by cesarean section.

The storm has caused thousands of traffic accidents and several deaths.

Video Caption: This animation of NOAA’s GOES satellite data shows the progression of the major winter storm in the U.S. south from Feb. 10 at 1815 UTC/1:15 p.m. EST to Feb. 12 to 1845 UTC/1:45 p.m. EST. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters

Hundreds of thousands of customers have lost power due to fallen tree limbs on exposed power lines, mostly in the southeast. In recent days, hundreds of thousands of us here in the Northeast lost power after a severe ice storm.

Mountains of snow inundate the Northeast. Credit: Mark Usciak
Mountains of snow inundate the Northeast. Credit: Mark Usciak

Most of those affected were left with no heat in subfreezing temperatures. It’s definitely no fun when you can see you exhaled breath – indoors.

Many school districts were closed today. But not in NYC where the new Mayor Bill DeBlasio kept schools open, and faced a hail of criticism – including from NBC News weatherman Al Roker.

Over 6500 airplane flights have been cancelled, stranding over a half million people.

So after days of shoveling, even more is on tap for the morning. Be careful, pace yourself and don’t overdo it – as several people died from heart attacks digging out the heavy slushy mess


Here is this evenings forecast (Feb 13) from the National Weather Service (NWS):

STORM SUMMARY NUMBER 09 FOR SOUTHERN PLAINS TO EAST COAST WINTER STORM
NWS WEATHER PREDICTION CENTER COLLEGE PARK MD – – 1000 PM EST THU FEB 13 2014

…LOW PRESSURE CENTER HAS MOVED OFF THE NEW JERSEY COAST AND IS
RAPIDLY INTENSIFYING…HEAVY SNOW BANDS IMPACTING INTERIOR
NORTHEAST AND I 95 CORRIDOR…WINDS INCREASING ACROSS THE AFFECTED
REGION…

WINTER STORM WARNINGS AND WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES ARE IN EFFECT
FOR THE NORTHERN MID ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST….

FOR A DETAILED GRAPHICAL DEPICTION OF THE LATEST
WATCHES…WARNINGS AND ADVISORIES…PLEASE SEE WWW.WEATHER.GOV

AT 900 PM EST…THE MAIN CENTER OF A RAPIDLY INTENSIFYING LOW
PRESSURE SYSTEM WITH ESTIMATED CENTRAL PRESSURE OF 986 MB…29.12
INCHES…WAS LOCATED JUST EAST OF THE SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY COAST.
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR AND SURFACE OBSERVATIONS
INDICATED THAT OVER THE PAST FEW HOURS…A BAND OF HEAVY SNOW WAS
IMPACTING CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA ACROSS NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND TO
NORTHERN MAINE. MEANWHILE…ANOTHER BAND OF MODERATE TO HEAVY
SNOW WAS LOCATED ALONG THE I 95 CORRIDOR FROM WASHINGTON DC TO NEW YORK CITY. EAST OF I 95 THE PRECIPITATION TYPE IS MAINLY RAIN…BUT A CHANGEOVER BACK TO SNOW IS EXPECTED.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Recent ice and snow storms caused hundreds of thousands to lose power and heat in the Northeast. Credit: Ken Kremer
Recent ice and snow storms caused hundreds of thousands to lose power and heat in the Northeast in subfreezing temperatures. Credit: Ken Kremer
Mountains of snow inundate the Northeast. Credit: Mark Usciak
Mountains of snow inundate the Northeast. Credit: Mark Usciak

Satellite Image of the “Polar Vortex” Over the US

If you live in the north and eastern part of the US, you’re probably experiencing some frigid weather. You’re probably also hearing people talk about something called a “polar vortex.”

Just what is a polar vortex and why is it making the temperatures so cold?

This image was captured by NOAA’s GOES-East satellite on Jan. 6, 2014, at 11:01 a.m. EST (1601 UTC). A frontal system that brought rain and snow to the US East coast is seen draped from north to south, and behind the front lies the clearer skies bitter cold air associated with the polar vortex. Also visible in the image is snow on the ground in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri. The clouds over Texas are associated with a low pressure system centered over western Oklahoma that is part of the cold front connected to the movement of the polar vortex.

NASA explains that the polar vortex is a “whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.”

Weather reports say the northern polar vortex was pushing southward over western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, and was bringing frigid temperatures to half of the continental United States. It is expected to move northward back over Canada toward the end of the week.

More about the polar vortex:

Both the northern and southern polar vortexes are located in the middle and upper troposphere (lowest level of the atmosphere) and the stratosphere (next level up in the atmosphere). The polar vortex is a winter phenomenon. It develops and strengthens in its respective hemispheres’ winters as the sun sets over the polar region and temperatures cool. They weaken in the summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, they circulate in a counterclockwise direction, so the vortex sitting over western Wisconsin is sweeping in cold Arctic air around it.

Source: NASA

NASA Satellite Snaps Winter Storm “Nemo”

Captured by NASA’s GOES-13 weather satellite on Friday, Feb. 8, this image shows the convergence of two massive low-pressure systems that are expected to bring high winds and up to 2–3 feet of snowfall across much of New England over the next 24 hours. This is the second and most powerful “nor’easter” of the season, and states in the region are preparing for the worst.

Acquired at 9:01 a.m. EST, the GOES image shows clouds associated with the western frontal system stretching from Canada through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and down into the Gulf of Mexico. The comma-shaped low pressure system located over the Atlantic, east of Virginia, is forecast to merge with the front and create a powerful nor’easter, which The Weather Channel (in a recent move to name winter storms) has dubbed “Nemo.”

Watch a video of this process in action below.

Snowfall forecasts for New England states (Weather Channel)
Snowfall forecasts for New England states (Weather Channel)

At the time of this writing, the snow has begun to fall outside this writer’s house. Accumulations are less than an inch — but that’s soon to change! Many cancellations and closings have already been announced across the region, with people making apprehensive associations with the infamous Blizzard of ’78. It’s unlikely that as many people will be caught unprepared, though, especially since modern forecasting methods have dramatically improved over the past 35 years — due in no small part to space technology like NASA’s GOES (Geostationary Operational Environment Program) satellites.

Orbiting Earth at an altitude of 35,790 km (22,240 miles) the 4 operational GOES satellites keep a constant eye on the globe, providing the NOAA with accurate, real-time measurements of water vapor and land and sea temperature variations. See more GOES image data here.

In the path of Nemo? Here’s some tips on how to be prepared.

The Van Allen Belts and the Great Electron Escape

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During the 1950s and just before the great “Space Race” began, scientists like Kristian Birkeland, Carl Stormer, and Nicholas Christofilos had been paying close attention to a theory – one that involved trapped, charged particles in a ring around the Earth. This plasma donut held in place by our planet’s magnetic field was later confirmed by the first three Explorer missions under the direction of Dr. James Van Allen. Fueled by perhaps solar winds, or cosmic rays, the knowledge of their existence was the stuff of nightmares for an uniformed public. While the “radiation” can affect objects passing through it, it doesn’t reach Earth, and this realization quickly caused fears to die. However, there are still many unanswered questions about the Van Allen Radiation Belts that mystify modern science.

Over the years we’ve learned these radiation zones are comprised of electrons and energetically charged particles. We’ve documented the fact they can both shrink and swell according to the amount of solar energy they receive, but what researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint is exactly what causes these responses. Particles come and particles go – but there isn’t a solid answer without evidence. A pertinent question has been to determine if particles escape into interplanetary space when the belts shrink – or do they fall to Earth? Up until now, it’s been an enigma, but a new study employing several spacecraft at the same time has been to trace the particles and follow the trail up.

“For a long time, it was thought particles would precipitate downward out of the belts,” says Drew Turner, a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and first author on a paper on these results appearing online in Nature Physics on January 29, 2012. “But more recently, researchers theorized that maybe particles could sweep outward. Our results for this event are clear: we saw no increase in downward precipitation.”

From October to December 2003, the radiation belts swelled and shrank in response to geomagnetic storms as particles entered and escaped the belts. Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

This isn’t just a simple answer to simple question, though. Understanding the movement of the particles can play a critical role in protecting our satellite systems as they pass through the Van Allen Belts – and its far reaching radiation extensions. As we know, the Sun produces copious amounts of charged particles in the stellar winds and – at times – can blast in our direction during coronal mass ejections (CMEs) or shock fronts caused by fast solar winds overtaking slower winds called co-rotating interaction regions -CIRs). When directed our way, they disrupt Earth’s magnetosphere in an event known as a geomagnetic storm. During a “storm” the radiation belt particles have been known to decrease and empty the belt within hours… a depletion which can last for days. While this is documented, we simply don’t know the cause, much less what causes the particles to leave!

In order to get a firmer grip on what’s happening requires multiple spacecraft measuring the changes at multiple points at the same time. This allows scientists to determine if an action that happens in one place affects another elsewhere. While we look forward to the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission results, it isn’t scheduled to launch until August 2012. In the interim, researchers have combined data from two widely separated spacecraft to get an early determination of what happens during a loss event.

“We are entering an era where multi-spacecraft are key,” says Vassilis Angelopoulos, a space scientist at UCLA, and the principal investigator for THEMIS and a coauthor on the paper. “Being able to unite a fleet of available resources into one study is becoming more of a necessity to turn a corner in our understanding of Earth’s environment.”

So where did this early support information come from? Fortunately the team was able to observe a small geomagnetic storm which occurred on January 6, 2011. By engaging the the three NASA THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) spacecraft, two GOES (Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite), operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and six POES (Polar Operational Environmental Satellite), run jointly by NOAA, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) spacecraft, they were able to catch electrons moving close to the speed of light as they dropped out of the belt for over six hours. Orbiting Earth’s equatorial zones, the THEMIS and GOES spacecraft are just part of the team. The POES spacecraft passes through the radiation belts several times a day as it cruises at a lower altitude and near the poles. By combining data, the scientists were able to take several observational vantage points and proved – without a doubt – that the particles left the belt by way of space and did not return to Earth.

“This was a very simple storm,” says Turner. “It’s not an extreme case, so we think it’s probably pretty typical of what happens in general and ongoing results from concurrent statistical studies support this.”

During this time, the spacecraft also observed a low-density area of the Van Allen belts which appeared along the periphery and traveled inward. This appeared to be an indication the particles were outward bound. If this was a normal occurrence, it stands to reason that a type of “wave” must assist the motion, allowing the particles to reach the outer escape boundary. Discovering just what exactly triggers this escape mechanism will be one of the jobs for RBSP, says David Sibeck at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is NASA’s mission scientist for RBSP and project scientist for THEMIS.

“This kind of research is a key to understanding, and eventually predicting, hazardous events in the Earth’s radiation belts,” says Sibeck. “It’s a great comprehensive example of what we can expect to see throughout the forthcoming RBSP mission.”

Original Story Source: NASA THEMIS News Release.