NOAA -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Satellite Maps - Frequently Asked Questions

This application is intended for informational purposes only and is not an operational product. The tool provides the capability to access, view and interact with satellite imagery, and shows the latest view of Earth as it appears from space. 

For additional NOAA GOES-16 imagery, please visit our Imagery and Data page or our cooperative institute partners at CIRA and CIMSS.

This website should not be used to support operational observation, forecasting, emergency, or disaster mitigation operations, either public or private. In addition, we do not provide weather forecasts on this site — that is the mission of the National Weather Service. Please contact them for any forecast questions or issues.

Looking for the previous real-time satellite data imagery? You can find them here:

Frequently Asked Questions

Using the Maps

About this satellite imagery

About the satellites

 

How can I capture an image of what I’m seeing on the ‘Latest 24 hr. Maps’?

You can use the camera tool to capture an image on the map. The camera tool takes time to download the image to your computer because it uses a large amount of satellite data. Adjust the ‘size’ accordingly. You can also take a screenshot using your own computer software.

It is not possible to download animations from the map viewers at this time.

Can I capture an image from the NOAA Satellite Maps 3D scene?

No, this feature is not available on the 3D Scene, but you can take a screenshot using your own computer software.

What does the Layering Options icon mean?

The Layering Options widget provides a list of operational layers and their symbols, and allows you to turn individual layers on and off. The order in which layers appear in this widget corresponds to the layer order in the map. The top layer ‘checked’ will indicate what you are viewing in the map, and you may be unable to view the layers below.

Layers with expansion arrows indicate that they contain sublayers or subtypes.

What does the Time Slider icon do?

The Time Slider widget enables you to view temporal layers in a map, and play the animation to see how the data changes over time. Using this widget, you can control the animation of the data with buttons to play and pause, go to the previous time period, and go to the next time period.

Do these maps work on mobile devices and different browsers?

Yes!

Why are there black stripes / missing data on the map?

NOAA Satellite Maps is for informational purposes only and is not an operational product; there are times when data is not available.

Why are the North and South Poles dark?

The raw satellite data used in these web map apps goes through several processing steps after it has been acquired from space. These steps translate the raw data into geospatial data and imagery projected onto a map. NOAA Satellite Maps uses the Mercator projection to portray the Earth's 3D surface in two dimensions. This Mercator projection does not include data at 80 degrees north and south latitude due to distortion, which is why the poles appear black in these maps. NOAA's polar satellites are a critical resource in acquiring operational data at the poles of the Earth and some of this imagery is available on our website, for example here: https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/noaa-shares-first-new-view-north-pole-earth-day

Why does the imagery load slowly?

This map viewer does not load pre-generated web-ready graphics and animations like many satellite imagery apps you may be used to seeing. Instead, it downloads geospatial data from our data servers through a Map Service, and the app in your browser renders the imagery in real-time. Each pixel needs to be rendered and geolocated on the web map for it to load. 

How can I get the raw data and download the GIS World File for the images I choose?

NOAA Satellite Maps offers an interoperable map service to the public. Use the camera tool to select the area of the map you would like to capture and click ‘download GIS WorldFile.’

The geospatial data Map Service for the NOAA Satellite Maps GOES satellite imagery is located on our Satellite Maps ArcGIS REST Web Service: https://satellitemaps.nesdis.noaa.gov/ArcGIS/rest

We support open information sharing and integration through this RESTful Service, which can be used by a multitude of GIS software packages and web map applications (both open and licensed).

Data is for display purposes only, and should not be used operationally.

Are there any restrictions on using this imagery?

NOAA supports an open data policy and we encourage publication of imagery from NOAA Satellite Maps; when doing so, please cite it as "NOAA" and also consider including a permalink (such as this one) to allow others to explore the imagery.

For acknowledgment in scientific journals, please use:

We acknowledge the use of imagery from the NOAA Satellite Maps application: LINK

This imagery is not copyrighted. You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and internet web pages. This general permission extends to personal web pages.

What am I looking at in these maps?

What am I seeing in the NOAA Satellite Maps 3D Scene?

There are four options to choose from, each depicting a different view of the Earth using the latest satellite imagery available. The first three views show the Western Hemisphere as captured by the NOAA GOES East (GOES-16) satellite and is updated every 15 minutes as we receive data from the satellite in space. The three views show GeoColor, infrared and water vapor. See our other FAQs to learn more about what the imagery layering options depict.

The fourth option is a global view, captured by NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellites (NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP and NOAA-20). The polar satellites circle the globe 14 times a day, taking in one complete view of the Earth in daylight every 24 hours. This composite view is what is projected onto the 3D map scene each morning, so you are seeing how the Earth looked from space one day ago.

What am I seeing in the Latest 24 Hrs. Western Hemisphere Map?

In this map you are seeing the past 24 hours (updated every 15 minutes) of the Western Hemisphere as captured by the NOAA GOES East (GOES-16) satellite. In this map you can also view three different ‘layers’. The three views show ‘GeoColor’ ‘infrared’ and ‘water vapor’. 

What am I seeing in the Global Archive Map?

In this map, you will see the whole Earth as captured each day by our polar satellites, based on our multi-year archive of data. This data is provided by NOAA’s polar orbiting satellites (NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP from January 2014 to April 19, 2018 and NOAA-20 from April 20, 2018 to today). The polar satellites circle the globe 14 times a day taking in one complete view of the Earth every 24 hours. This complete view is what is projected onto the flat map scene each morning.

What does the Western Hemisphere GeoColor imagery show?

The Western Hemisphere ‘GeoColor’ map is a combination of visible and infrared bands captured by GOES East (GOES-16) and is updated every 15 minutes in real time. GeoColor imagery approximates how the human eye would see Earth from space during daylight hours, and is created by combining several of the spectral bands from the NOAA GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The wavelengths of reflected sunlight from the red and blue portions of the spectrum are merged with a simulated green wavelength component, creating RGB (red-green-blue) imagery. At night, infrared imagery shows high clouds as white and low clouds and fog as light blue. The static city lights background basemap is derived from a single composite image from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day Night Band. For example, temporary power outages will not be visible. Learn more.

What does the GOES infrared band 13 show?

The Western Hemisphere ‘infrared’ map displays heat radiating off of clouds and the surface of the Earth. Higher clouds colorized in orange often correspond to more active weather systems. This infrared band is one of the multiple GOES East ABI sensor’s infrared bands, and is updated every 15 minutes in real time. Infrared satellite imagery can be "colorized" or "color-enhanced" to bring out details in cloud patterns. These color enhancements are useful to meteorologists because they signify “brightness temperatures,” which are approximately the temperature of the radiating body, whether it be a cloud or the Earth’s surface. In this imagery, yellow and orange areas signify taller/colder clouds, which often correlate with more active weather systems. Blue areas are usually “clear sky,” while pale white areas typically indicate low-level clouds. During a hurricane, cloud top temperatures will be higher (and colder), and therefore appear dark red. This imagery is derived from the NOAA GOES-16 ABI sensor’s band #13.

How does infrared satellite imagery work? 

This infrared (IR) band detects radiation that is emitted by the Earth’s surface, atmosphere and clouds, in the “infrared window” portion of the spectrum. The radiation has a wavelength near 10.3 micrometers, and the term “window” means that it passes through the atmosphere with relatively little absorption by gases such as water vapor. It is useful for estimating the emitting temperature of the Earth’s surface and cloud tops. A major advantage of the IR band is that it can sense energy at night, so this imagery is available 24 hours a day.

What do the colors on the infrared map represent?

In this imagery, yellow and orange areas signify taller/colder clouds, which often correlate with more active weather systems. Blue areas are clear sky, while pale white areas indicate low-level clouds, or potentially frozen surfaces. Learn more about this imagery

What does the GOES water vapor map layer show?

The Western Hemisphere ‘water vapor’ map displays the concentration and location of clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere, captured by GOES East (GOES-16) and updated every 15 minutes in real time. Water vapor imagery, which is useful for determining locations of moisture and atmospheric circulations, is created using a wavelength of energy sensitive to the content of water vapor in the atmosphere. In this imagery, green-blue and white areas indicate the presence of high water vapor or moisture content, whereas dark orange and brown areas indicate little or no moisture present. This imagery is derived from the NOAA GOES-16 ABI sensor’s band #10. 

What do the colors on the water vapor map represent?

In this imagery, green-blue and white areas indicate the presence of high water vapor or moisture content, whereas dark orange and brown areas indicate less moisture present.  Learn more about this imagery.

What is global true color imagery?

The global ‘true color’ map displays land, water and clouds as they would appear to our eye from space, captured each day by NOAA-20.

This ‘true color’ imagery is created using the VIIRS sensors onboard the NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP polar orbiting satellites. Although true-color images like this may appear to be photographs of Earth, they aren't. They are created by combining data from the three color bands on the VIIRS instrument sensitive to the red, green and blue (or RGB) wavelengths of light into one composite image. In addition, data from several other bands are often also included to cancel out or correct atmospheric interference that may blur parts of the image. Learn more about the VIIRS sensor here

Where can I learn more about these satellites and see more satellite imagery?

What are the GOES satellites?

NOAA’s most sophisticated Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), known as the GOES-R Series, provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather. 

The first satellite in the series, GOES-R, now known as GOES-16, was launched in 2016 and is currently operational as NOAA’s GOES East satellite. GOES-S has joined GOES-16 in orbit as GOES-17 and will become operational as GOES West in late 2018. 

Together, GOES-16 and GOES-17 will watch over the Western Hemisphere from the west coast of Africa all the way to New Zealand, orbiting the Earth from about 22,300 miles away.

What is the NOAA-20 satellite?