What is GOES?
GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. The term geostationary means the satellite is “parked” above one part of the earth. This is achieved by matching the speed of the satellite’s orbit with the rotational speed of the earth. The altitude the satellite must above the earth for geostationary orbit is around 35800 kilometers (22,300 miles). Geostationary satellites are most common as they make presentation on maps easier and offer a consistent view-point of Earth’s surface.
What geostationary satellites are in orbit and where do they cover?
As of this post, there are 34 satellites in operation for atmospheric, land, ocean, space, and solar weather. These combine to cover the 6 main regions: Metosat (Europe and Africa), GOES-EAST (North and South America), GOES-WEST (Eastern Pacific), GMS (Japan, Australia, and Western Pacific), Fengyun-2 (China and Indian Ocean), and Elektro (Central Asia and Indian Ocean).
What about the newest one?
The most recently launched satellite is the GOES-16, formally known as GOES-R. This satellite not only shows cloud cover, but it is also able to detect how high the clouds and if there is lightning. Some of the standout features of this satellite are: 3 times more spectral bandwidth information, 4 times greater spatial resolution and 5 times faster coverage than previous GOES satellites. These features will lead to improvements in thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornado forecast lead times and paths. To see some of these features in action see the following two tweets from @NOAASatellites.
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) May 4, 2017
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) May 3, 2017
Meanwhile, on the space and sun facing sides there are instruments measuring ultra violent radiation and magnetic fields.
Currently GOES-16 is in a non-operational stage as tests are still being performed. However, a group of approved meteorologists can use it to analyze the data from the satellite and get a sense of what the weather is doing. There are 3 more satellites planned for launch in the coming years which will provide satellite coverage until 2036. For more information visit this website maintained by the GOES-R team.
Update: On May 25th, 2017, NOAA announced that GOES-16 will move to the GOES East position when it is declared operation sometime this fall.