NOAA’s satellites help us prepare for severe weather
Spring is on the horizon. With the promise of warmer temperatures and blooming flowers, there also comes an increased risk of severe weather. NOAA’s geostationary (GOES East and GOES West) and polar orbiting (Suomi NPP and NOAA-20) satellites monitor the changing weather patterns that come with the transition from winter to spring. March 6–February 10, 2023 is Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
As the potential for severe thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, dangerous lightning, and flooding increases, NOAA’s satellites are working together to provide critical data for weather forecasts and severe weather warnings. They also assist emergency responders to help keep our communities safe.
During an extreme weather event, GOES-16 (GOES East) and GOES-18 (GOES West) constantly monitor the storm. Satellites provide near real-time information about cloud characteristics, revealing the presence of overtopping tops, gravity waves, and cirrus plumes above the anvil, indicating that the storm may be severe. They also provide information about the temperature of the cloud tops. The colder the cloud top, the more likely the storm will produce heavy rain and severe weather. Satellites help forecasters track rapidly changing weather conditions, determine how fast winds are at different levels of the atmosphere, determine when a storm will become severe, and predict where the storm will move next.
GOES-16 and GOES-18 also monitor lightning activity using the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instrument. GLM detects total lightning activity (intra-cloud, cloud-to-cloud, and cloud-to-ground) and reveals the extent and distance of lightning flashes. Rapid increases in total lightning activity often precede severe and tornadic thunderstorms. GLM data can help alert forecasters that a storm is intensifying before it produces damaging winds, hail or tornadoes.
Lightning poses a significant threat to life and property, and is particularly dangerous to those who work outdoors and engage in recreational activities. GLM data provides awareness of local lightning conditions and encourages better lightning safety decisions, leading to fewer lightning-related injuries and deaths. In large, long-lived storm systems, lightning may travel hundreds of miles before striking the ground. The GLM can show forecasters areas far from the main line of storms where the risk of lightning strikes to the ground poses a public safety risk.
Not only can the GLM detect current lightning activity, but its data, along with data from GOES-16 and GOES-18 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), can also help predict future lightning occurrences. Scientists use artificial intelligence (AI) to predict where GLM will notice lightning. To achieve this, a sophisticated machine learning algorithm was trained, using GLM data, to recognize complex patterns in ABI images that often precede lightning activity.
This artificial intelligence model is called ProbSevere LightningCast, predicts where lightning is most likely to occur even before it rains. It also indicates where lightning remains a threat in storms with intermittent lightning activity and helps determine when the threat from lightning diminishes. The AI tool can accurately predict lightning up to 60 minutes before the first lightning flashes are noticed. Clear forecast signals often appear before rain, before weather radar signals.
NOAA’s JPSS satellites collect global measurements of conditions in the atmosphere, oceans and on land as they travel around the Earth each day, including temperature, humidity, clouds, precipitation and more. They can also collect data from polar regions where other observational data are sparse.
the Sophisticated meteorological data and observations have aided daily and long-term monitoring and forecasting. Noah National Weather Service It uses this data to learn more about storm direction and intensity as well as increase the accuracy of forecasts three to seven days before an extreme weather event occurs. These forecasts allow early warnings and enable emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect American lives and property, including ordering effective evacuations.
Spring storms can bring heavy rains that lead to flooding. Accurate, timely and reliable information about rainfall is vital for flash flood prediction and response to flood events. NOAA’s satellite data is used to create comprehensive maps of flood areas. These maps, along with aircraft, drones and ground assets, help determine the impact of the storm — where flooding occurred, what extent it occurred, as well as how long it will last, and what damage has been done. Flood maps are provided to FEMA, local emergency managers, and first responders to help them quickly determine where to use limited resources, where to issue evacuations, when it is safe for people to return to their homes, and where to focus recovery efforts.
Visit NOAA’s spring safety web page For more information about spring weather dangers as well as safety and preparedness tips