The Washington Post

Key GOES-13 weather satellite goes dark

Satellite view of the U.S. and Atlantic without GOES-13 data. (Note: GOES-15 data - not shown - do provide some coverage of the East Coast) ( CIMSS Satellite Blog )

UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: NOAA confirms GOES-14 will take over for GOES 13 until/unless GOES-13 is fixed. Andrew Freedman at Climate Central is also blogging on this latest satellite situation.

Original blog post: The NOAA weather satellite that tracks weather systems over eastern North America and the Atlantic ocean no longer has eyes on our skies.

The satellite, known as GOES-13, was placed in “standby mode” last night after after experiencing technical difficulties. More specifically, increasing “noise” was interfering with its data collection.

“The noise got so bad on Sunday night that the instrument was placed in stand-by mode, and engineers are attempting to troubleshoot the problem,” writes Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters.

NOAA says its engineers are investigating with “no return to service time available.”

To fill the gap left by GOES-13, NOAA has placed GOES-15 - which covers the West Coast - into “Full Disk scan” mode to grab occasional images further east every 30 minutes. GOES-15 can provide coverage over the whole U.S. but image quality decreases towards the East Coast.

The CIMSS Satellite blog notes additional imagery can be obtained from polar-orbiting satellite such as POES AVHRR, MODIS, and Suomi NPP VIIRS instruments but at much less frequent intervals than GOES-13.

GOES-13 was launched in 2006 and held in reserve until 2010 when it was placed in operation.

“It’s possible that it can be fixed, but it would need to be by clever electrical engineers on the ground, since physically repairing it is not an option,” writes Brian McNoldy, CWG’s tropical weather expert.

McNoldy says there’s a spare satellite waiting in the wings - GOES-14 - to take over GOES-13 functions if necessary.

UPDATE, 2:10 p.m.: McNoldy writes on his Facebook page: “GOES-14 is now online as the (temporary?) replacement for GOES-13. If 13 can’t be fixed, 14 will just get maneuvered over to 75W from its current parking spot at 105W.”

GOES-13 not only takes pictures of our skies, but also - through its sounder instrument - collects atmospheric data used in weather prediction models.

“The loss of GOES-13 data will degrade the accuracy of the computer forecast models for the globe, particularly over the Atlantic, for the duration of the outage,” Masters says.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.


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