When you watch the news and see images of weather from around the United States or the world, you are seeing data from NOAA's environmental satellites.
NOAA's environmental satellites provide data from space to monitor the earth to analyze coastal waters, relay life-saving emergency beacons, and predict and track tropical storms and hurricanes.
NOAA operates three types of satellite systems for the United States – polar-orbiting satellites, geostationary satellites, and our deep space satellite. Polar-orbiting satellites circle the earth and provide global information from 540 miles above the earth. Geostationary satellites constantly monitor the Western Hemisphere from around 22,240 miles above the earth. And our deep space satellite orbits one million miles from earth, providing space weather alerts and forecasts while also monitoring the amounts of solar energy absorbed by Earth every day.
Satellites enable us to provide consistent, long-term observations, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By remotely sensing from their orbits high above the earth, they provide us much more information than would be possible to obtain solely from the surface. Over 90% of the data that goes into our weather models is from satellites.
They track fast breaking storms across "Tornado Alley" as well as tropical storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Using satellites, NOAA researchers can also more closely study the ocean. Information gathered by these satellites can tell us about ocean bathymetry, sea surface temperature, ocean color, coral reefs, and sea and lake ice.
Satellites provide other services beyond just imaging the earth. Monitoring conditions in space and solar flares from the sun help us understand how conditions in space affect the earth.
Satellites also relay position information from emergency beacons to help save lives when people are in distress on boats, airplanes, or in remote areas. Each year, thousands of people are rescued through SARSAT - Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking.
Scientists also use a data collection system on the satellites to relay data from transmitters on the ground to researchers in the field – such as measuring tidal heights or the migration of whales.Monitoring the earth from space helps us understand how the earth works and affects much of our daily lives.