New weather satellite 'will revolutionize forecasting'

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This weekend a new weather satellite launching into space promises to be a game changer for weather forecasters.

NOAA's new GOES-R satellite is scheduled for launch at 5:42 p.m. Saturday.  Once it's in orbit, it will eventually provide satellite imagery of the entire United States every five minutes.  Right now, the best we can get is every 15 minutes. 

It can also provide more rapid scans of specific weather features, like hurricanes or thunderstorms, every 30 seconds.

This means satellite imagery at four times greater resolution and five times faster than we get right now.

"For weather forecasters, GOES-R will be similar from going from a black and white TV to super high-definition TV," NOAA's Dr. Stephen Voltz offered.

GOES-R will have 16 spectral bands, compared to the five on current satellites.  That will give us a better view of clouds, fire, smoke, aerosols, volcanic ash, and much more.  It also has improved lightning-detection capabilities.

And it won't just be keeping an eye on Earth -- GOES-R will also monitor space weather, watching for solar and magnetic storms.

"The GOES-R series is really a quantum leap above any satellite NOAA has ever flown," Voltz continued.  "Without a doubt, GOES-R will revolutionize weather forecasting as we know it."

Here's what that means for you: Better lightning detection will allow us to see and forecast rapid intensification of tropical cyclones, along with increasing the warning time for tornadoes.

We'll be able to see storms develop and strengthen in real time, leading to better short-term forecasts of severe weather, plus better hurricane forecasts, including storm track and intensity.

The benefits go on and on: Fog detection, rainfall potential, better air quality warnings.  It will even help airline pilots avoid storms.

But it won't happen overnight.  Once in orbit, NASA has to calibrate it -- and that takes about a year.

The weather forecast for Saturday evening's launch attempt is 90-percent 'go.'