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GOES-18 Benefits & Capabilities

Atmospheric Weather

As GOES West, GOES-18 will collect critical data over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, where many weather systems that impact the continental United States originate. The satellite will monitor atmospheric river events that can cause flooding and mudslides in coastal areas. GOES-18 will also provide high-resolution imagery of Pacific hurricanes that track toward Hawaii or Mexico. GOES-18 data will alert forecasters of storm formation and track and monitor tropical storms and hurricanes in near-real-time. The satellite will provide a detailed look at the storm properties of hurricanes, including cloud top cooling, convective structures, specific features of a hurricane’s eye, upper-level wind speeds, and lightning activity. This information is critical to estimating a storm’s intensity.

Image of a storm over the pacific northwest

Environmental Hazard Monitoring 

Image of a helicopter

GOES-18 will provide critical data for identifying and tracking environmental hazards of particular concern to the western U.S. GOES-18 will locate wildfire hot spots, detect changes in fire behavior, predict the motion of fires, estimate a fire’s intensity, and monitor smoke output and air quality effects from smoke. GOES-18 can identify the lightning strikes most likely to ignite fires and characterize pyrocumulonimbus clouds that threaten the safety of firefighters. Coastal fog is a particular hazard in San Francisco and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Not only will GOES-18 provide high-resolution, real-time imagery of fog conditions, but the satellite’s rapid scanning capabilities will also help forecasters predict when fog will clear. GOES-18 data will also be important for detecting volcanic eruptions and monitoring ash and sulfur dioxide.


Ocean Observations

Warm sea surface temperatures are a contributing factor in the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes. Data from GOES-18 can help forecasters provide early warning that a hurricane is forming. Sea surface data from GOES-18 will also contribute to monitoring and tracking marine heatwaves, which are becoming an increasing influence on fisheries and marine life. Sea surface temperatures affect all parts of the marine food chain. Microscopic plants and animals (i.e., plankton and zooplankton) are affected, as are the fish that eat them and subsequently, the whales, birds, and other predators that eat the fish. Ocean temperatures not only influence when and where the fish go but also when and where fishermen must go to catch them.

As sea surface temperatures rise, mass coral bleaching events and coral reef infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent. This alters ecosystem function, as well as the goods and services coral reef ecosystems provide to people around the globe. The loss of coral reefs also makes coastal communities more vulnerable to storm events.

Hurricane Florence in the western Atlantic September 12, 2018


Space Weather

Aurora borealis in the night sky

The changing environmental conditions from the sun’s atmosphere are known as space weather. Space weather is caused by electromagnetic radiation and charged particles that are released from solar storms. Changes in the magnetic field and a continuous flow of solar particles during a powerful storm headed to Earth can disrupt communications, navigation systems, and power grids as well as result in spacecraft damage and exposure to dangerous radiation. GOES-18 hosts a suite of instruments that detect and monitor approaching space weather hazards.


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