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New NASA Satellites to Increase Tornado Warning Lead Time

The GOES-R satellite series will revolutionize forecasting abilities, gathering data more quickly and increasing tornado warning lead time by 50%.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Spring in the Mid-South means severe weather. An EF-2 tornado with winds of 120 miles per hour damaged homes in Chester County, TN on April 26, 2012. Severe weather season is far from over.

Preparedness can save your life, but so can having enough time to get to safety. On average right now, the current lead time for a tornado warning is 13 minutes. NASA has made breakthrough improvements on new satellites that will give you more time to get to safety.

The GOES-R series is a group of 4 geo-stationary satellites that will be launched into orbit in late 2015. Several years and more than $7.6 billion have paved the way for this revolutionary way of capturing pictures of atmospheric conditions.

Currently, satellites only have 5 channels to capture data with. The GOES-R satellites will have 16 channels, nearly 60 times the capability of the current imager.

Steven Goodman, GOES Senior Program Scientist, says, “We're going to be able to image storms up to five times faster than we do now. We'll be able to take 30 second update images of storms developing or hurricanes developing.”

Scientists will also attach a new instrument called a “lightning mapper” to the satellites. For the first time, scientists will be able to map lightning activity.

One of the more notable changes will be in tornado lead time. Scientists anticipate an increase in lead of 50%, thanks to better detail and faster image-capturing.

Most tornadoes in the Mid-South happen at night. With lots of trees obstructing the view on the ground level, storm spotters and even radar have a difficult time seeing rotation near the ground. The new satellites will help to augment the limitations we currently have.

The GOES-R satellites are expected to be operational by 2017 and should have a life expectancy of about 15 years.
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