After this week's massive storm system, which spawned tornadoes that killed 12 people, you might appreciate this: NASA and NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have teamed up to launch a new GOES weather monitoring satellite: the GOES-R series, which will help warn people about severe weather sooner.
GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. As they orbit Earth, the satellites monitor atmospheric conditions. They're basically fixed in place over a single spot on the planet, with a wide-angle view, collecting data around the clock. This lets meteorologists identify triggers for severe weather like hurricanes, flash floods, hailstorms and tornadoes.
GOES-R series satellites will be loaded with state-of-the-art instrumentation, and the launch of the first is expected in 2015, according to a NASA news release. The satellite will be able to better monitor conditions that are often precursors to tornadoes, like changes in lightning. And with the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), NASA and NOAA will be able to monitor and map lightning in real time across the Western Hemisphere.
Other on-board instruments, like the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), will provide such a richness of data that meteorologists will better be able to monitor and predict tornado-spawning storms, on very short time intervals: every 30 to 60 seconds, compared with the current seven-and-a-half-minute intervals between conditions updates, the NASA release said.
In the end, GOES-R's capabilities are expected to improve warning times for severe weather. The GLM, for instance, is expected to add seven full minutes to current warning times. That's seven more minutes for people to get to shelter, invaluable time in the face of a deadly storm.