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!

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