South Americans, and millions more in the Western Hemisphere, are benefitting from the reposition of NOAA's GOES-10 spacecraft, a move designed to lessen the effects of natural disasters in the region. The satellite's successful shift from a position above the equator in the West, to a new spot in orbit, was recently announced.
"Repositioning GOES-10 provides a constant vigil over atmospheric conditions that trigger severe weather, and I am pleased that the United States can strengthen the quality and quantity of data available to our Latin American partners," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
Shifting GOES-10 is part of the emerging GEOSS in the Americas, a Western Hemisphere initiative designed to advance the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS. Through this endeavor, NOAA is exploring partnerships with countries and scientific organizations in the Americas and Caribbean to share Earth observations and develop and strengthen data networks. Western Hemisphere nations will work together to ensure the satellite data are disseminated and training is available to enable full use of the new information.
"The satellite is functioning well and ready for hurricane season," said Gilberto Câmara, Ph.D., director of Brazil's National Space Research Institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais). "In the past, coverage has been interrupted during hurricanes and other severe weather events in the U.S. Now, South Americans will have continuing satellite coverage. We will no longer be left in the dark."
NOAA's GOES satellites orbit Earth's equator at a speed matching the planet's rotation, allowing them to hover over one position. They provide scientists with detailed weather measurements and frequent imagery used to develop short-term forecasts that help protect life and livelihoods. In South America, the new satellite coverage is already having an impact. On March 8, for instance, Argentina was able to trace a low pressure development and then accurately issue a high-rainfall alert that helped save lives in Buenos Aires and other highly-populated areas. The new coverage also is contributing to improved fire detection in the Amazon rainforest of western Brazil.
In addition, GOES-10 is providing South America with images of the Earth's atmosphere system twice as frequently as before. South America now receives coverage nearly as far south as the South Pole, with images every 15 minutes. History has proven that there is a vital need for the advanced warning this additional information may provide. During the1990s in South America, natural disasters caused nearly 70,000 deaths, and more than half were from flooding. Storms, cyclones, hurricanes and mudslides caused another 20 percent of the deaths. In May 2003, the largest flooding in 500 years hit Argentina's north-central region, displacing more than 100,000 people and causing $1 billion in damage.
In the Western Hemisphere, nine countries are working with global partners to build GEOSS, including Argentina, Brazil, Belize, Canada, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and the United States. More countries are expected to begin participating later this year. In the U.S., 15 federal agencies and three White House offices are engaged in developing the U.S. component of GEOSS. The goal of the integrated system of systems is to provide comprehensive, coordinated and sustained Earth observations from thousands of instruments worldwide, transforming the data they collect into a range of societal benefits spanning global public health, energy, agriculture and weather and climate, among others.
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