Category Archives: Weather Corner

On the Road to Summer

by Tom Ross

We really start to march toward summer with May’s average temperature generally in the mid 70’s and average low in the low 50’s. While we can still have an unusual late season frost, many years we don’t. However, the old adage “Plant your tomatoes around Mothers Day” is pretty good advice for our area. The combination of warmer spring temperatures along with rising soil temperatures supports a more vigorous growth of tomatoes and other warm season crops for the rest of this year’s growing season. We average about 5 inches of rain for the month, with rain falling on an average of 12 days. In any given May we get between 7–10 thunderstorms. We actually got some decent rains in the last month or so, with 6–8 inches of rain in the region during March and the first part of April. Take a look at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) for some hints on the upcoming summer weather patterns.

The GOES Weather Satellites

This month we will take a look at some recent developments in satellite meteorology. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) is the next generation of geostationary weather satellites. There are four satellites in the series: GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T and GOES-U. The GOES-R Series Program is a collaborative development and acquisition effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop, launch and operate the satellites.

The GOES-R series satellites will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere, total lightning data and space weather monitoring to provide critical atmospheric, hydrologic, oceanic, climatic, solar and space data. They will provide images of weather pattern and severe storms as frequently as every 30 seconds, which will contribute to more accurate and reliable weather forecasts and severe weather outlooks. GOES-R’s environmental data products will support short-term weather forecasts and severe storm watches and warnings, maritime forecasts, seasonal predictions, drought outlooks and space weather predictions. GOES-R products will improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts, increase thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time, improve aviation flight route planning, provide data for long-term climate variability studies, improve solar flare warnings for communications and navigation disruptions and enhance space weather monitoring.

GOES-R is now known as GOES-16 since it reached geostationary orbit, and will transition into operations immediately following an extended checkout and validation phase of approximately one year. NOAA’s mission is to ensure that data from its satellites is precise, accurate, and widely available, so before GOES-16 becomes operational, it must go through an exhaustive testing phase, wherein its instruments are checked and re-checked using measurements from a vast range of verified sources. Now that the data has begun to flow, GOES-16 and its team of experts on the ground are ready to embark on another major milestone — the GOES-16 Field Campaign. During the next three months, a team of instrument scientists, meteorologists, GOES-16 engineers and specialized pilots will use a variety of high-altitude planes, ground-based sensors, unmanned aircraft systems (or drones), the International Space Station and the other satellites to collect measurements across the United States. One of the best sites on the web to view current satellite data is the following:

As part of my daily routine, I check out this site and look at the current imagery. This site has the capability to zoom in and select an area of the country to view satellite imagery and then to also loop them in an animation. You can also zoom down to the Carolinas and, in the map drop-down box, have the option to select “county.” This will bring up either a single image or a loop of images to highlight the counties in the Carolinas.

Some links to the project:

Meteorologist Tom Ross managed the Climate Database Modernization Program at the National Climatic Data Center.