Current Technology Used to Collect Weather Data - Weather Satellites and Rockets
As we have seen, satellites have been used to provide data on world weather systems since the early sixties.
There are two types of satellites; Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) and Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites, which complement each other to give a complete picture of world weather.
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)
Modern GOES used by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) operate at up to approximately 22,245 miles (35,800 km) above the Earth’s surface, recording the changes in atmospheric conditions in space that are triggers for hurricanes or tornadoes, thus enabling severe weather warnings to be issued.
Instruments aboard the GOES Satellites collect the following data through a Visible and Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR), a high technology device that measures the vertical structure of water vapor and temperature in the atmosphere over specific locations. This allows the following data to be collected;
- Images of cloud and snow formation
- Wind information from cloud motion.
- Estimates of precipitation.
- Air and sea temperature.
Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites
These satellites circle the earth at approximately 515 to 528 miles (830 to 850 km) in a North/South orbit sending regular images back to earth. This enables the onboard instruments (VISSR) to monitor and record global atmospheric conditions and cloud data by collecting numerous weather parameters that affect weather patterns.
All this data from both types of satellites is fed into weather models to produce accurate weather forecasts.
The sounding rocket is driven by a solid/liquid fuel motor and incorporates a Radiosonde containing weather data recording instruments similar to the hot air balloon to altitudes between approximately 621 to 932 miles (1000 and 1500km.)
The rocket flight averages 20 minutes transmitting data such as wind speed and direction, air pressure and temperature as well as atmospheric humidity. When it reaches full trajectory, the Radiosonde is released and falls to Earth under an integral parachute.
An image of a modern Sounding Rocket is shown below, please click to enlarge.