The first Earth Day took place in 1970, which also was the same year NOAA was established. Since then, NOAA satellites have been monitoring Earth’s weather, environment, oceans, and climate. They provide critical information for forecasts and warnings of severe weather and environmental hazards.
This Earth Day, we have a lot to celebrate. Over the past year, NOAA has added two new satellites to its Earth-observing fleet and contributed an instrument to a mission that will help us have a better understanding of Earth’s physical and biological environment.
GOES-18 entered operational service on Jan. 4, 2023, as NOAA’s GOES West satellite, replacing GOES-17. Previously known as GOES-T, it launched on Mar. 1, 2022. Orbiting 22,236 miles above the equator over the Pacific Ocean, GOES-18 keeps watch over the western contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America. NOAA moved GOES-17 to a central location between GOES East and GOES West to serve as the primary on-orbit standby.
Geostationary satellites continuously monitor the same area, keeping watch to identify and track severe weather conditions and environmental hazards. This information is used for short-term (1-2 day) forecasts and for tracking storm systems and hazards in real-time.
JPSS-2, the third satellite in the Joint Polar Satellite System, launched on Nov. 10, 2022. Upon reaching orbit, the satellite was renamed NOAA-21. NASA handed NOAA-21 over to NOAA on Mar. 30, 2023. It is currently undergoing additional checkout and testing of its instruments and systems before entering operational service as NOAA’s primary polar-orbiting environmental satellite. Joining JPSS satellites Suomi NPP and NOAA-20, NOAA-21 orbits 521 miles above Earth’s surface from the North Pole to the South Pole 14 times a day, flying over every spot on the planet at least twice.
As the JPSS satellites orbit Earth, the planet rotates counterclockwise beneath their path, resulting in a different view with each orbit. Global data from polar-orbiting satellites, including atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, are used in numerical weather models to generate weather forecasts up to seven days out.
Finally, NOAA’s Argos-4 instrument was launched on Oct. 7, 2022, from New Zealand. Under a joint agreement between NOAA and France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), Argos-4 is a hosted payload on the General Atomics GAzelle commercial satellite. . Once in orbit, Argos-4 joined a network of other Argos instruments onboard other polar-orbiting satellites to collect a variety of data from both stationary and mobile transmitters around the world.
Different vantage points, geographic coverage, instrumentation, and imaging frequency from NOAA satellites offer unique information about our home planet. Together, they provide complementary measurements for a complete picture of what’s happening on Earth.
On Earth Day, we celebrate the critical information NOAA satellites provide to help us stay safe and the beautiful imagery they share of our planet. They see it all: hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, lightning, fires, dust storms, smoke, fog, volcanic eruptions, vegetation, snow and ice cover, flooding, sea and land surface temperature, ocean health and more. They can even track ship traffic and power outages. At NOAA, each day is Earth Day.