GOES-17 is the latest in the most advanced series of weather satellites the US has ever launched to become operational! Now that it’s operational GOES-17 will be known as GOES-West, indicating the half of the country it primarily serves. This is a big step forward for meteorologists all across the country though, not just for those on the west coast!
One of the biggest advances the GOES-17 will bring to meteorologists is its coverage over Hawaii and Alaska. Many of our own storm systems originate from the west, particularly to the northwest near Alaska. Being able to have full coverage with GOES-17 will allow us to watch these systems for a longer time to see how they evolve, which in turn will help us forecast how they’ll behave once they’re approaching Alabama.
Another potentially life-saving improvement GOES-17 will bring is its high-resolution and rapid-scan capability, which improves detecting and analyzing wildfires and the extent of smoke coverage. This is obviously a major concern for the western US, like California which is coming out of one of the worst wildfire seasons in history. Smoke coverage can help forecasters see how the fires are moving, how the winds are impacting fire growth, and which areas could need evacuations due to air quality concerns.
While GOES-17 is approved for operational use, it’s not on its own quite yet. Due to some problems with its Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), GOES-17 will have tandem duty with GOES-15 for a while. GOES-15 is the satellite GOES-17 will replace fully once GOES-17 has been cleared of the problems facing its ABI instrument. GOES-15 is expected to be put in storage to let GOES-17 fly solo by the end of this summer.