5 December 2007
If you look at satellite images on TV or online then you are most likely looking at images from GOES 12. On the West Coast another GOES provides coverage of storms from Hawaii to as far East as Oklahoma.
Just before the 10 PM weathercast last night, I noticed that my satellite imagery was not updating. I suspected there was a hardware failure, or our down link dish was misaligned. Turned out that the problem was not on my end. It was much higher!
NESDIS is the National Environmental Satellite Information service. The manage the U.S. weather satellites. It seems that after a routine station keeping maneuver yesterday around 17 GMT, the Goes 12 quit working properly. GOES 12 has only been in Service for 4.5 years and should have lasted a long while longer.
NESDIS engineers are working to restore the data so hope is not lost. If the past is any indication though, it is likely a very expensive piece of orbital junk 22,5000 miles above the equator. It is WAY, WAY too high for the shuttle to reach it.
The good news is that there is a replacement already in orbit. Goes N is in storage, and NESDIS is moving ahead with planes to bring it online so the problem will likely be fixed soon. When GOES N is activated, it will be given the name GOES 13.
In the meantime, the old GOES satellite that was providing images of South America has been commanded to take images of North America.
Update Dec. 2008: Goes 12 was revived, and continues to send images. It has had some more hiccups, so there is a problem. Hopefully we will get some more useful life from it.
Our data provider has quickly remapped the data onto the sectors I usually show on air. So people watching the evening weathercast tonight, likely had no idea anything was different. (Except that I told those watching about it!)
I am not sure that the world outside of Meteorology really understands just how vital these satellites are. They do so much more than just snap images of clouds! One Satellite Meteorologist once said that if all that weather satellites could do were track hurricanes they would be worth 10 times there cost!
Believe me, they do much more than that!
The best online imagery is here by the way: