National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

NOAA's operational weather satellite system is composed of two types of satellites: geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) for short-range warning and "now-casting" and polar-orbiting satellites for longer-term forecasting. Both kinds of satellite are necessary for providing a complete global weather monitoring system. The NOAA Satellite Information System (NOAASIS) weather satellites webpage has extensive information on both types of satellite.

NOAA GOES Satellites

GOES satellite provide the kind of continuous monitoring necessary for intensive data analysis. They circle the Earth in a geosynchronous orbit, which means they orbit the equatorial plane of the Earth at a speed matching the Earth's rotation. This allows them to hover continuously over one position on the surface. GOES satellites provide visible and infrared radiometer data that are used for imaging purposes, radiation measurements, and temperature profiles. GOES satellite imagery is used to estimate rainfall amounts, snow accumulation, and overall extent of snow cover. In addition, satellite sensors detect ice fields and map the movement of sea and lake ice.

NOAA Polar Orbiting Satellites

Polar-orbiting satellites serve a different purpose than GOES satellites. Two polar-orbiting satellites constantly circle the Earth in an almost north-south orbit, passing close to the poles. The orbits are circular and sun synchronous. This pair of satellite ensures that data for any region on the Earth are no more than six hours old. The polar-orbiting satellite supply similar products as the GOES satellites. Although the polar-orbitors cover much more of the Earth, the measurements for a particular region are not updated continuously like the GOES satellites.

Satellite Reception

NOAA satellite imagery is received and distributed by NOAA's National Environmental Satellite Information Service (NESDIS). Visit the GOES webpage to learn more about NOAA weather satellites. The Worldwide Radiofacsimile webpage contains listings of vendors who supply satellite receiving systems for shipboard applications as well as technical information on satellite reception.

Read about Future NOAA Polar Orbiting and Geostationary Satellite Systems.