GOES-16: Fire, we do that

Rhea fire

The so-called #Rhea fire in northwestern Oklahoma burns out of control on April 18, 2018. Imagery from the GOES-16 weather satellite Image from AllisonHouse Maps.

As I type this, Oklahoma and Kansas have had zero reported tornadoes in March and April (so far) in 2018. That’s utterly remarkable, but in a few days, a severe event in southern Texas may end the tornado drought…with maybe a few brief tornadoes.

But that doesn’t mean that our new GOES-16 satellite isn’t useful, even with an unseasonably cold spring across a good portion of the central and eastern U.S., In fact, the satellite is saving lives, and for a reason you might not expect.

This spring, a severe drought, made much worse by strong, dry southwest winds and very low relative humidity, have brought many dangerous wildfires to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, with Oklahoma being the worst hit so far. As you can see by the dark spot in the image above, the #Rhea fire in northwest Oklahoma is staggering in size. Consuming nearly 400,000 acres as I type this (and growing with only minimal containment as of late in the evening of April 18), a very useful tool for wildfire detection has been the GOES-16 blue visible channel (1 KM resolution) and the 3.9 micron shortwave IR (2 KM resolution) channels, with the 2.2 micron channel also being helpful with wildfire detection. Having said that…

The best channel to use to detect and monitor wildfires, in many cases, is the GOES shortwave IR channel (3.9 micron). The imagery, updated every 60 seconds with mesoscale sector rapid scan modes, allows meteorologists to call Forest Service and state Emergency Operation Centers (EOC’s) sometimes even BEFORE the public sees them and reports them in! Obviously, this gives fire departments the ability to get the upper hand on wildfires more quickly, and in some cases, extinguish them before they cause major damage. In fact, over 100 wildfires have been called into the Forest Service and EOC’s by the National Weather Service before anyone else knew about them, thanks to meteorologists and GOES-16 imagery!

It’s now late April, and soon, GOES-17 will be online. A mirror of technology of GOES-16, it will no doubt see western fires with exceptional clarity as well. It’s a great time to be a meteorologist, with enhanced capabilities with our new satellite opening up new doors of understanding to our complex planet., which ultimately will save property and lives from everything from flooding and tornadoes…to wildfires brought on by drought. GOES-16…it’s not just for monitoring clouds!

Wait…you don’t have this imagery? How do you get it? AllisonHouse Maps has it! While some web sites use compressed, lower-resolution imagery, we get the full resolution image feed which lets you see GOES-16 images with unsurpassed clarity. You can zoom in and out as close or as wide as you like to keep everything in perspective…and watch for fires or developing thunderstorms, and more! Subscribe today, and you’ll see it all, from fires to floods, to snow cover and more. The satellite has you covered; now see us to get the data!

GOES-S is now GOES-17!

Today, March 12, 2018, GOES-S was successfully placed in geostationary orbit, 22,300 miles up.  That means it is now officially GOES-17! It also means that the process to “start” the satellite up with system checks can also begin. Again, per my previous blog entry, we should see the first images from the satellite sometime in May.


This is a major event for the satellite. Things can go horribly wrong at lunch, and getting it into orbit. If you get past these two hurdles, then bringing the satellite online is the final step before moving it into its permanent location.



GOES-S, soon to be GOES-17 later this year, takes off from Cape Canaveral, FL. Video still courtesy NASA-TV.

On March 1, 2018 at 5:02 PM ET, an Atlas-5 rocket lifted off with GOES-S, soon to be GOES-17 (or GOES-WEST once it is in orbit and it is declared operational. As I type this, everything seems to be going well as of 8 PM ET, March 1. With the apparent success of the launch, people are already asking questions. Let’s see how many I can answer:

Q: Is GOES-17 going to provide the same products as GOES-16?
A: Yes! In fact, they are mirror satellites; everything in each of them is identical. Same sensors, resolution, products, etc. What you get from GOES-16, you will have from GOES-17.

Q: I want GOES-17 data NOW!
A: You’ll have to wait, but not for too long. First, the engineers have to get the satellite into a proper, stable orbit, and then they have to “unpack” the satellite in space (no, not like cardboard boxes that you let your cats go nuts with!). The first image is expected to arrive in May. Then, after some more checking out of sensors and equipment, we’ll see the imagery on an EXPERIMENTAL, NON-OPERATIONAL basis (remember that lovely wording? It’s back!) later this summer and fall for several months, and then, if all is well, it will be commissioned. Until then, patience, please.

Q: Will AllisonHouse carry GOES-17 data?
A: You bet! As soon as we get our hands on it, we will have as many products as we are able.

Q: Will it all be in near real-time to us like GOES-16 is?
A: Yes! As soon as we have it reliably, you will have it.

Q: What will be the “footprint”, or coverage area, of GOES-17?
A: West to New Zealand, and east covering much of the Pacific, and all of the U.S. and Western Hemisphere with 15 minute imagery; for the U.S. , it updates every 5 minutes. If you are a storm spotter or chaser west of, let’s say, a latitude of Amarillo, TX, you should probably use GOES-17 when it is available. Of course, it will also have two 1-minute “mesoscale” sectors, just like GOES-16 does.

Q: How much will it cost to get it?
A: If you want the full GOES experience, there’s no doubt about it: subscribe to AllisonHouse Maps. We will carry everything on Maps first.
Then, our other integrated software partners will get subsets of the data next. See our pricing page for our “Storm Hunter” package, which includes
Maps: https://www.allisonhouse.com/pages/pricing .

Q: How do I get to be the video camera operator that got that shot, so I can have my feet in the ocean as the rocket goes up?
A: You must be able to climb down a live volcano to take readings without getting hurt, and sneeze with your eyes open.

Do you have a question? I’ll do my best to get you an answer! Just reply to this thread.

Edit: GOES-16 (GOES-EAST, the twin of GOES-17, caught the launch!)