12:25 PM | Key US weather satellite goes dark

Discussion

A key US weather satellite, GOES-13 (aka GOES-East), that monitors the US east coast and the Atlantic Ocean has gone dark due to technical issues. The satellite was placed in “standby mode” on Sunday night as increasing “noise” interfered with its data collection. Initially, to mitigate the gap left behind for meteorologists, GOES-15 (aka GOES-West) was placed in “full disk scan” to grab occasional images farther east every 30 minutes, but its image quality decreases towards the US east coast. Now NOAA has placed its backup satellite, GOES-14, into service to take over for the troubled GOES-13. GOES-14, which was actually taken out of storage and activated about a month ago, is not yet providing all of the data that GOES-13 was contributing. The US also has polar orbiting satellites; however, images from these are rather narrow and are not as continuous as they are with GOES satellites. One of the biggest impacts from the brief degradation in satellite coverage may be felt in computer modeling as satellites are one of the main sources of data for weather models. GOES-13 was launched in 2006 and went operational in 2010 and was expected to remain in service for several more years. NOAA engineers are currently working on a solution to correct the problem from the ground, but no timetable has been set. The next generation of NOAA satellites known as the GOES-R series is not scheduled to launch until 2015.