From Satellites: Global Hydrology and Climate Center
The NASA Global Hydrology and Climate Center, or GHCC, is a partnership between NASA's Earth Science office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and various educational institutions. The GHCC also provides GOES East and GOES West satellite imagery. Current thumbnail images of the three common types of GOES images are displayed on the GHCC Web site. Visible light images are on the left side of the Web page. Enhanced infrared images are in the middle. The images to the right show water vapor. The images are arranged from close-ups of North America to images of the entire Western Hemisphere.
The visible light images from GOES satellites are similar to a black and white photo of Earth. The bright white areas show where sunlight is being reflected back into space because of clouds or snow cover. Denser clouds reflect more sunlight and appear brighter in the image. Land surfaces show up as gray because they reflect less light than clouds. Ocean surfaces are nearly black because they reflect almost no light back into space.
The water vapor image shows infrared -- which is affected strongly by water vapor. The image shows the altitude of the highest moist layer in the atmosphere. Bright areas show the location of high clouds either due to jet stream cloudiness or due to thunderstorm activity. The dark areas reflect the location of dry air at high altitudes. This condition is associated with high-pressure systems. Jet stream winds show up as bright streaks. The animation option is very helpful for the water vapor image. It shows where moisture is coming from.
Click on a thumbnail image to get a larger image such as the infrared image below. The larger image shows more detail and options. In the sample image below, move the curser over the numbered buttons to find out more about that portion of the image.
Image above: Sample GOES weather satellite image. Credit: NASA
+ Text version