Satellite imagery is probably one of my most favorite things about meteorology.

The pictures that satellites can grab from miles up in the atmosphere is amazing. And with the technology that we have today these images are crisp and clear.

The fairly new GOES-16 weather satellite has state of the art equipment. And for the GOES satellites there is now lightning detection.

About the Satellite

There are many different instruments on the satellite that can pinpoint different weather information as there are 16 different wavelengths of energy that the satellite can capture.

This gives scientists a wide array of different views on a satellite as each wavelength illustrates a different portion of the atmosphere.

The spacing or timing between each picture has also increased. This is good for severe storms because we can now get an image every minute instead of every 5 with the mesoscale imaging and it’s also a higher resolution.

Mesoscale imaging on the GOES-6 satellite in the visible spectral band on June 14, 2019.
Mesoscale imaging on the GOES-6 satellite in the visible spectral band on June 14, 2019.

The mesoscale imaging will grab a small portion of the country and specifically focus on that picture and pinpoint that forecast area.

Visible Imagery

The visible imagery on a satellite is probably my favorite bandwidth on a satellite.

The visible is the true color from space. It’s essentially what we see on earth, but from a different angle, from space.

You can see some really neat weather features (just like every bandwidth), but for me this does put things into perspective.

I do have to mention that you can only use this bandwidth in the daylight, because if the sun isn’t showing on earth it’s not visible to the satellite. That’s where the other bandwidth’s come into play. So, at night when severe weather strikes, meteorologists don’t have the capability of using the visible imaging.

But with the visible there can be some really neat weather features.

A cold front coming through the mid-Atlantic and Delmarva on June 12, 2019. This is in the visible wavelength from GOES-16.
A cold front coming through the mid-Atlantic and Delmarva on June 11, 2019. This is in the visible wavelength from GOES-16.

For example, the image above shows a cold front crossing through the D.C. and Baltimore corridor. This is the difference between the dark grey (ground) and the light grey/white (cloud cover). A meteorologist will study this picture and easily say a cold front is coming through.

A cold front is usually warm and muggy ahead of the front, but then once it crosses the humidity levels will drop and so with the temperatures. Of course, that’s just the general rule as that doesn’t always occur.

If you see ground on a satellite image that means clear sky is above you. And with the cold front sweeping through, much of Delmarva will be seeing the cloud cover go away within a few hours.

And sure enough it did.

Visible imagery from GOES-16 on June 12, 2019 and thunderstorms are forming off of the New Jersey coast.
Visible imagery from GOES-16 on June 11, 2019 and thunderstorms are forming off of the New Jersey coast.

I took a different view of the same picture as above because I had noticed that there are thunderstorms developing off of the New Jersey coast.

Meteorologists can determine this because there is more texture in the cloud structure. The cumulonimbus clouds are casting shadows onto the other clouds. And this makes sense because this is a ahead of the front and you often see convection forming as a result.

This is just the start of the satellite era and talk on my blog. There is so much to be learned and I do plan on learning all of it. But for now, the visible spectrum shows some really neat weather features.

Wildfire smoke may not necessarily be a cloud, but that is also visible in the visible spectrum and once I notice it on the satellite that’s guaranteed to be another post.

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