LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Weather experts on the South Plains are excited about the launch of a new satellite that will be able to provide lifesaving data about future storms and hurricanes.
The Geostational Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 16 will become fully operational in November.
"It's really been put to good use with the last few hurricanes," Lubbock National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jody James said. "We as meteorologists and forecasters are really excited about it. With all the technology changes I've seen over the past few years, GOES 16 is definitely one of the most exciting. It's incredible what we can see."
The satellite was launched last year and is already proving its worth. The long list of technological improvements includes an ability to send back high resolution imagery quickly.
"We are getting imagery instead of every 15 minutes or five minutes, we can get it all the way down to every 30 seconds or one minute in some cases on the mesoscale sector," James said. "Just some fantastic tools for the forecasters and it will allow us to have better situational awareness and make better warnings we hope."
The high-quality images reveal detail about storms and clouds not seen before. James said his team was able to detect gravity waves and mesoscale vortices, little swirls on the eye wall of a hurricane, during Hurricane Irma.
"It does make a giant qualitative difference and it improves the situational awareness for the forecasters," James said. "It's really a giant leap ahead for satellite technology."
This technology, combined with traditional radar, is expected to help increase warning times for severe weather on the South Plains and across the nation.
"We'll be prepared for these storms that are developing maybe several hours earlier than what we anticipated," KCBD NewsChannel 11 Chief Meteorologist John Robison said."The key, I think, would be advanced warning on a local basis and regional basis because of the capability of that satellite and detail of that satellite. It's so much greater than the current satellite imagery we are looking at."
Forecasters are also excited about its new lightning mapping capability.
"We have the Texas Tech lightning mapping right here in the area but to have a lightning detection on a satellite from 22 miles in space, it will enable you to be able to map areas even over the ocean and areas we had no lightning map work," James said. "It's just really phenomenal."
Combine all this with the increased ability to spot hot spots and fires for county first responders and these experts believe the GOES 16 will help them save even more lives and property.
The GOES 16 is currently undergoing instrument validation and will be fully operational in November.
More satellites are set to be launched over the coming years with the last to be operational in 2035, according to the National Weather Service.