January 24, 2017

Weather Satellite Imagery Now in Color!

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, many households moved from black and white to color TV.

Meteorologists are about to do the same thing for operational weather satellite imagery, with a new operational geostationary satellite:  NOAA 16 (a.k.a. GOES-R).  

NOAA (the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) has two types of weather satellites: geostationary satellites (known as GOES), placed in an orbit at 35,000 km above the equator that allows them to rotate with the earth, and polar orbiters, located around 800 km above the surface, that follows an orbit that views ever-changing swaths of the earth's surface.  Previous GOES satellites provided only black and white imagery, but the latest satellite, launched on Nov. 16, 2016 views the earth in more light wavelengths, thus providing color images.

Let me show some of the first pictures from our new (and very expensive) satellite.  In geostationary orbit, the satellite views the entire planet (see below), with blue oceans and multi-color land. Beautiful.

And here is a closer view of the U.S.

And the West Coast.  Not only are these images in color, but they have about twice the resolution of the old satellite imagery.  At the equator, the satellite can distinguish objects as small as .5 km.

 The new GOES satellite will be tested for about 6 months before it is made fully operational.


  1. Ehh... Hate to rain on your parade, but that's just a colorized image. No different than what GOES13 already has. GOES16 does NOT take images in color.


  2. Here is more information on how the process works. It's not true color :)


  3. Beautiful. But aren't the polar orbiters the ones that give us the best close-ups of our region? Any plans for those to go to color as well?

  4. If Trump thinks it has something to do with climate, will he shut it down?

  5. The Blue Planet!
    To use the obvious descriptor: Awesome! If I remember correctly, earlier NASA color pictures of an entire hemisphere took a hundred images stitched together to produce the same image. This is a real improvement. It's easy to see why our astronauts rave about what Earth looks like from space.

  6. This is very cool. I'm surprised however that NOAA is allowed to "talk" about it. Probably not for long with our new government.

  7. I read that it not been determined if it will be the new West or the new East. I am wondering what will determine that particular choice.

  8. JohnK- they are colorized the same. Search TERRA AQUA MODIS.

    Michael - the determination comes in May. It depends a lot on the health of the two up there now.

  9. http://www.space.com/35423-goes-16-jaw-dropping-views-of-earth-and-moon.html .. More general. And in response to "Michael's" question here just above if I may: within the main text of the article linked to here, it says that "GOES-16", is in fact only one of four satellites—similar. Presumably, set to be positioned (in time.) somewhat similarly to where those currently supplying imagery are fixed.

  10. The weather satellite will be blown up and shut-down in about 3-6 months or so with NASA and NOAA and DOI and the EPA being purged from the system. It'll go from being in color, to being black and white, to nothing at all, so enjoy it will it lasts. What a joke. What a joke. It would be funny, except it's so sad. NOAA is on the brink of being completely wiped out; obliterated. Having worked for NOAA as senior executive recruiter, there is a ton of waste at WFMO, but I have to tell you, what is coming is pure chaos in compared to NOAA and the NWS being gutted.

  11. Gee Harrison, overreact much? You sound like the alleged adults in charge of the EPA currently having a collective meltdown:


    This neatly exemplifies everything wrong with governmental agencies run amok. Nothing but federal political hacks posing as responsible adults. These are supposed to be professionals working in the sciences, not babies in dire need of having their diapers changed. But please, don't let me stop you from being wholly ignored during your unhinged ranting.

  12. Rob Dale, thanks for pointing out it's synthesized, but the paper you link appears to say it is not the same as the previous generation at all -- says it's two channels within the visible band, versus previous single channel. That's actually a pretty big difference in color perception.

    It won't be able to tell green apart from purple, but honestly how much purple do you get in a view of the Earth?

  13. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site. I've learn many things from your site.

    Flat Earth Map


Extraordinary Halos over the Region Tuesday Night

Before and during sunset last night, there were some amazing halos visible around the region. Here are two views from Ellensburg, the first ...