Two types of satellite system are used to monitor weather around the globe: geostationary and polar orbiting. Geostationary satellites orbit near the equator, offering a distant overview of Earth, while polar orbiting satellites give close-up, high-res images.
The on-board imager senses visible and nearinfrared light, enabling the satellites to monitor cloud cover during the day, while infrared sensors provide thermal imaging and information about levels of water vapour in the atmosphere.
The new generation of weather satellites are equipped with technology that even lets them see through clouds. The GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) will be able to measure lightning between and inside clouds – day and night – allowing more accurate forecasting of dangerous thunderstorm activity that could lead to tornadoes. This satellite will also house an Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), which looks for overshooting clouds – an indicator of cyclone activity within developing storms.