Weather balloons are a key cog in understanding the way air circulates around the planet. But it turns out there are other, pretty solid uses for them as well. Like say, capturing GoPro footage of the Grand Canyon from the stratosphere. According to a user on Reddit, he sent a weather balloon to dizzying heights reserved for flight test pilots, asMore
Friday marked a major anniversary for satellites. On Oct. 16, 1975, NASA sent the first in a long run of successful weather satellites into orbit more than 22,000 miles above the earth’s surface.
Just nine days later, it returned its first image. Looks like a nice day for a hike in the Andes or maybe laying on the beach in Cancun (but not so much in Florida).
The satellite, dubbed GOES-1, gave meteorologists their first near real-time view of the planet from a fixed position thousands of miles away. GOES-1 wasn’t the first weather satellite in orbit (that title would belong to Tiro 1), but it was the first to be launched to such lofty heights. Most satellites hang out a couple hundred miles above the earth’s surface, snapping images of different locations. GOES-1 and its successors are in geosynchronous orbit, an orbit that allows these satellites to look at the planet from a fixed position from far away.
Since that day 40 years ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other meteorological agencies around the world have launched dozens of other geosynchronous satellites that have returned millions of images. GOES-1 was decommissioned long ago, and the most recent geostationary satellites like Japan’s Himawari-8 have offered vast improvements.
NOAA currently has two newer GOES satellites in orbit and they’re planning to launch another in conjunction with NASA in fall 2016. Though in recent years, NOAA has also faced funding shortfalls that could reduce its beyond-earth monitoring capabilities.
Watching the evolution of our weather is fascinating from a pure earth fanboy (or fangirl) standpoint, but it also provides crucial information for meteorologists, particularly when it comes to tracking hurricanes and severe weather. Being able to track hurricanes that are out to sea can give forecasters a better understanding of their intensity and track and without them, forecasts could suffer. And seeing severe weather develop in real-time from space can help meteorologists pinpoint where to issue tornado warnings or otherwise help people prepare in a way that on-the-ground observations can’t (though on-the-ground observations are infinitely more valuable once severe weather hits). Even climate models have benefitted from improved satellite observing systems. And of couse everyone can benefit from just images of the world we live on from a unique vantage point.
This originally appeared on Climate Central.