Major Weather Satellite Outage Creates Blind Spot For Meteorologists
by Kelly Smith, Meteorologist
September 25, 2012 8:45 AM
A major satellite used by Meteorologists malfunctioned this week putting the entire East Coast and Atlantic into a massive blind spot.The GOES-13 weather satellite which scans the eastern half of the United States and the Atlantic Ocean started malfunctioning on September 12th when it sent back images with excess "noise" (unclear images). NOAA Scientists say that the satellite images deteriorated so much that they had to turn the satellite into stand-by mode while engineers furiously work to try to fix the problem. Putting GOES-13 into stand-by mode essentially turned off any access to satellite imagery and data for the entire eastern half of the United States.
(Satellite view without GOES-13 (EAST)GOES-13 is a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Geostationary satellites orbit 22,300+ miles above a fixed point on the Earth. Geostationary means that the satellite remains over the same area on Earth and orbits in unison. The United States is covered by two GOES satellites: GOES-West (operated by GOES-15) and GOES East (operated by GOES-13). GOES West sits above longitude 135 degrees West directly over the Pacific Ocean and covers the West Coast and Pacific Ocean. GOES East sits above longitude 75 degrees West, and when added together with GOES West will cover the entire United States.
(GOES West & East Coverage)GOES East was being operated by GOES-13 a relatively new satellite. GOES-13 was launched into orbit on May 24th 2006 but did not move into place to take over GOES East duty until 2010. It is quite common for NOAA Scientists to launch satellites years in advance and let them orbit until another satellite is ready to be decommissioned. When the old satellite is ready to be decomissionned Scientists will move the old out and the stand-by into place. GOES-14 was launched a year after GOES-13 and remains in stand-by position at longitude 105 degrees west. When NOAA Scientists decided to put GOES-13 on stand-by to be fixed, they activated GOES-14 to take over temporary duties for GOES East as engineers expect GOES-13 to be down for an extended period. While the activation of GOES-14 allows for satellite coverage, there is a small amount of data loss as compared to the positioning of GOES-13 as GOES-14 is farther west at 105 degrees west compared to the previous 75 degrees west.This black hole on the East Coast caused issues for many Meteorologists. Satellite data from both GOES satellites are used everyday to generate weather forecasting models and used to track storms on land and at sea. GOES satellites are extremely important during Hurricane season to track tropical systems in areas where there are no radars.
Luckily, the outage occurred in a somewhat quiet period with no active severe weather or tropical concerns. However, NOAA Scientists say there is no tentative date to have GOES-13 back up and running but in the mean time GOES-14 will continue to cover the eastern half of the country.
The weather this week will be very quiet in our region, so we are likely to see little to no problems from the outage. High pressure moves back into the area and strengthens which means this beautiful fall weather will continue for a little while longer.
Fall has definitely made its way into the Sioux Empire after it arrived on Saturday morning. Temperatures fell well below freezing creating a hard freeze for many areas. (More on Fall Freeze)
Some areas saw the first fall frost slightly earlier than usual, but many areas were only a week or two away from average first fall frost dates.
(Aberdeen's Frost Almanac)Aberdeen saw their first fall frost (temperatures cooler than 32 degrees) on September 13th, only ten days before their average first frost date.
(Huron First Fall Frost Almanac)Huron's first fall frost was only 5 days ahead of their average first frost.
(Sioux Falls Fall First Frost Almanac)Sioux Falls saw thier first fall frost around eight days ahead of average but still well after the earliest fall frost on record.Temperatures in many areas dropped well below frost status and dropped to or below 28 degrees, causing the first hard freeze.
(First Fall Freeze Almanac for Aberdeen)Temperatures dropped well below hard freeze criteria into the low 20's on September 22nd, around a week before the average.
(Huron's First Fall Freeze Almanac)Temperatures in Huron fell down well below 28 degrees on the morning of September 22nd which is around a week earlier than the average.
(Sioux Falls First Freeze Almanac)Temperatures dropped to 27 degrees on the morning of September 23rd in Sioux Falls, allowing for the first hard freeze of the season, which was a few weeks away from the average.Patchy frost maybe possible Wednesday morning along the extreme northern areas, but the rest of the Sioux Empire should remain above frost/freeze conditions for the rest of the week. Temperatures will remain slightly above seasonably average in the afternoon through the beginning of next week. Rain chances will be hard to find over the next 7 days as the strong ridge and dry conditions hinder any sort of chance for rain in the eastern half of the state through at least next week. Lack of rain chances last week and this week will likely allow the exception and extreme drought categories to expand farther north. The new drought monitor will be out on Thursday morning and we will update when it becomes available.