An August GOES-17 update, and some good news

GOES-17 satellite artist image

GOES-17 ABI (visible, IR and water vapor channel) data will become available for testing by the end of August. Artist imagery courtesy: NOAA

Hello everyone,

The cooling problems with GOES-17 have been well-documented in this blog. But the *quality* of the images has always been just as good as GOES-16. The problem is, during the spring and fall equinoxes and around that time, there will be 2-4 hours of missing infrared/water vapor channel data at night. Even so, the quality and the amount of imagery will far surpass that of GOES-15, our current western satellite. See my previous entries for all of the details on data loss late at night for portions of the year.

However, because the imagery itself checks out to be of excellent quality like it’s GOES-16 sister, NOAA/NESDIS has informed AllisonHouse that it will send preliminary, non-operational ABI sensor data starting on August 28, at 15Z (10 AM Central Time). This includes all visible, IR, and “water vapor” channels!

Now, before you start drooling here, a couple of notes. Once the data starts flowing, it needs to flow to us, and it might not immediately; like GOES-16, the data set is massive and requires a ton of bandwidth, and examination. Second, our ace programmer Ryan Hickman spent 24 hours with no sleep getting GOES-16 on our website as soon as we got the data, but this time, I think he’ll actually eat and sleep when he finally does get the data. ūüôā Remember, GOES-17 is not over the western U.S. (it’s now at 89.5 degrees west) and there’s not much of our part of the hemisphere right now that isn’t covered already by GOES-16. So, during the testing phase, there will be a very large amount of overlap between the two satellites.

All of this to say: we’ll have GOES-17 data up and running before it becomes operational, as soon as reasonably possible, and again: once it is up and running at AllisonHouse, we’ll let you know. Once running, we do expect outages as they test things out on the NOAA side of things, as happened with GOES-16.

Having said that, I’m excited about the new satellite, and I hope you are, too! This satellite should still be much better than GOES-15, in spite of its difficulties for up to 4 hours at night with the ABI data. And, be sure to like our Facebook page for up-to-the-minute updates when we add the data to AllisonHouse Maps!

July 2018 GOES-17 update


GOES-17 is looking up, as engineers continue to work on the malfunctiioning cooling system from 23,000 miles away. Logo courtesy: NOAA

Hello everyone,

A few months ago, I wrote about the issues with GOES-17, which is due to be our western satellite. To recap, the cooling system which keeps the camera and sensors aboard cool is working well below performance standards. This causes the sensors to overheat and deliver very noisy or useless pictures. The problem occurs on GOES-16 as well, but is nowhere near as bad, and is not causing any issues that NOAA can see at this point.

What exactly the problem is remains unclear. It is possible that GOES-T, destined to be launched in 2020, could be delayed, but nobody is willing to bet that until they can figure out what is happening. And, without cameras, it’s hard to figure out what is going on.

Even so, there are some measures NOAA can take that has improved the cooling system on GOES-17 some. And, it has had a significant effect. Per NOAA, the estimated performance issues, and this is all preliminary, are:

13 out of 16 ABI channels available 24 hours a day, with 3 channels available 20 hours a day near the winter and summer solstices;

10 out of 16 channels available for 24 hours, another 3 channels available for 20 hours, and the last 3 channels 12 hours before the spring and fall equinox.

So, that is a lot better than before, but obviously not optimal. In the meantime, design changes will probably be forthcoming for GOES-T and beyond for the cooling systems, and again, it’s too early to tell if these will delay the launch of those satellites. But it’s still good news for GOES-17. In short, this means that basic visible, IR and water vapor channels should be operational nearly all or all of the time.

Additionally, some mechanical slight-of-hand and additional tweaks could cause even more availability in the future, but we will have to see how this pans out.

Expect the first regular images to be sent this fall in test mode, including AllisonHouse Maps.

A “sucky” historical tornado season. Now what?

It has been a very slow year for tornadoes. We break down the numbers, but also remind you that tornadoes are just one aspect of severe weather, and we are entering the heart of severe weather season, and the start of hurricane season, now. Image courtesy: SPC

As of July 11, 2018, we are having an incredible tornado season. An incredibly low number of tornadoes, that is! Let’s review where we are, why we are, and where do we go from here.

First off, the spring pattern exhibited a “La Nina”-ish type pattern whereby the jet stream would crash into the lower 48 states from the northern Plains, to the Carolinas, and then offshore. This caused a couple of interesting things.

First, it caused a trough in the jet stream in the far western U.S., giving very welcome rains….until the flooding started. Cities literally got partially covered with mud, causing fatalities. The eastern Rockies remained dry, helping to set the stage for wildfires now. But in the Plains and Great Lakes, it was unseasonably cool to cold.

Northwest flow from Canada shut down the Gulf of Mexico, and kept many systems from developing and coming into the Plains. And when they managed to do so, there was so much cold and dry air in place, and with the Gulf scoured of deep moisture, even intense cyclones produced amazingly few tornadoes.

As Sam Lillo noted on Twitter, as of July 8, we only had 63 tornado watches issued by the Storm Prediction Center. Most of the time, that number is reached in March or April, and in some cases, early to mid-May. But not July 8! But this year, it took us that long to get to that point.

And then, in Late May and early June, it happened. The jet stream roared northward to the Canadian border, and flow across the central U.s. was weak. With weak shear and marginal instability profiles, only a few tornadoes were big and photogenic, like Bennington, KS on May 2 (really? Really?). You had to be at the right place at the right time, and many storm chasers missed that one.

So, how are we doing compared to, say, last year? Let’s check out a couple of benchmarks.

Number of days with at least one tornado across the U.S. (preliminary data for 2018) in:

…………………..2017 2018
January              10     4
February             5      6
March                14     13
April                   23    10
May                    27    27
June                   22    27

Now, by looking at this, you would think that April was pretty “dry”, but May and June were active, and that the primary tornado season was pretty typical, with a high number of tornado days in June. But the total *numbers* of tornadoes compared to, as an example, last year are staggeringly low:

Number of tornadoes each month (preliminary data for April 2018 onward):

…………………..2017 2018
January             142    15
February           115    48
March                176    55
April                   218  129
May                    299   89
June                   168   30

And here’s where 2018 went off the rails and into the ditch for severe weather enthusiasts. Thanks to persistent cold air intrusions from Canada, Alaska and, a few times, from the North Pole and Siberia through the spring, the necessary ingredients for tornadoes didn’t show up often, and when they did, they were marginal or very marginal situations at best, resulting in a handful (or less) of tornadoes, and very weak at that.

So does that mean that storm chasers and spotters have nothing to do for the rest of the year? Hardly. We’re entering derecho season. A derecho is a long-lived, large line of severe thunderstorms that produces widespread, significant wind damage, with 70-90 MPH gusts or even higher. For those, we need to see decent moisture in the ground for the crops to “sweat” it back into the air for these lines of thunderstorms to use. And, while there is modest drought in some areas, many areas have adequate moisture, or even too much. And, as of this typing, we have our third named tropical system, Chris, spinning inbetween North Carolina and Bermuda, has 105 MPH winds. While it won’t hit the U.S., hurricane season has started early this year, and it will be very interesting to watch as time goes on. You bet I’ll be watching, and you should be as well.