Major weather satellite still not functioning

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 6 A.M. CDT (11 UTC). The GOES-13 satellite, which provides regular images every 15 minutes for the eastern U.S. and Atlantic Ocean began to return images with an excessive amount of noise on September 12, 2012. The noise gradually increased so that NOAA – on the U.S. evening of Sunday, September 23 – took the GOES-13 satellite offline, placing it on temporary standby. NOAA is trying to analyze the problems with GOES-13, and it is uncertain as to when the satellite will be up and running again. Having the GOES 13 satellite malfunctioning is not a good thing, because, without it, forecasters will have a more difficult time monitoring possible tropical systems that could form in the Atlantic. Fortunately, we are in a lull for activity in the Atlantic, minus Tropical Storm Nadine. Other satellites are now being used as replacements for GOES-13.

NASA’s GOES satellite page still carries a note about the GOES-13 malfunction this morning (September 25), which reads:

GOES-13 (East) has experienced a malfunction and is unable to generate imagery. Engineers are working on a fix and an estimated return to service is undetermined at this time.

Check here for possible updates to GOES-13’s condition.

While GOES-13 is out, there is the potential for an absence of data across the eastern United States and Atlantic Ocean.

The good news:

GOES-15 temporarily provided backup imagery for a short time, but GOES-14 has since served as a replacement. Also noted by the CIMSS Satellite blog, polar orbiting satellite such as POES AVHRR, MODIS, and Suomi NPP VIIRS will also be able to fill in the gaps. Since the GOES satellites also take in data, weather models might be somewhat degraded since they are missing GOES-13 data from the east coast and in the Atlantic Ocean.

Bottom line:

The GOES-13 satellite is currently offline – on standby – as NASA tries to fix the “noise” the satellite has been experiencing since September 12, 2012. The standby began on the evening of September 23, according to U.S. clocks. As of now, it is unknown as to how long GOES-13 will be out. GOES-15 temporarily provided backup imagery, but GOES-14 has since served as a replacement. Fortunately, the tropics have been relatively quiet across the Atlantic, but activity could increase towards October. GOES-13 satellite not only takes weather images, but it also collects atmospheric data that is used in weather forecasting models. With the GOES-13 down, that important missing data might degrade weather models’ accuracy in weather prediction at the present time.

Rapid decline in U.S. satellites could be costly

September 25, 2012

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Matt Daniel

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