Built by L3Harris, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) is the primary instrument aboard the GOES-R series of environmental satellites. ABI will collect and transmit to NOAA's ground station more environmental information than previous geostationary satellites at a higher resolution and a faster rate, giving meteorologists better information to create more accurate weather forecasts.

As NOAA/NASA’s prime contractor for the ABI and the GOES-R ground system, L3Harris technology will transform weather forecasting by delivering accurate and timely information to positively impact decision making that will affect lives and property.

Visit the NOAA/NASA GOES-R site at www.GOES-R.gov

About the GOES-R Imager

ABI is the primary sensor aboard the GOES-R series of satellites. It collects environmental information and high-quality imagery of Earth's western hemisphere. ABI data will account for more than 90 percent of the satellite's data collection each day. Using infrared technology, ABI will provide continuous data collection with 10 thermal channels, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. During daylight hours ABI will collect additional data across two visible wavelengths and an additional four near-infrared wavelengths that require reflected sunlight.

Since the last GOES imagers were designed more than 20 years prior to the development of ABI, the world has seen amazing technology advancements. By incorporating some of these advanced technologies, ABI is faster and more powerful than its predecessor instruments. It will unlock more information about the environment, in more detail, faster than what has been possible from GOES satellites.

How ABI Works

Like a panoramic digital camera, ABI scans strips across the Earth to get a complete image of the Western Hemisphere. Current GOES imagers take about 26 minutes to complete the image, whereas ABI can do it in five. A secondary mode of data collection allows ABI to collect multiple types of data simultaneously to more quickly provide weather forecasters with information across the continental United States or a specific storm event. In a mere 10 minutes, ABI can scan the full hemisphere, collect two additional images of the continental United States, and collect information on developing storms every 30 seconds. This unique mode of data collection is revolutionary and unlike anything else available today.

The camera resolution is even better as well. It is similar to the difference between high-definition versus standard television. The color-enhanced ABI imagery will provide greater detail for meteorologists to gain more understanding of storms, clouds, moisture, and wind patterns.

GOES-R ABI Improvement Graphic - More Color - Better Resolution - Faster

More Channels or Bands = Additional Data

ABI will view Earth’s Western Hemisphere with 16 spectral bands (compared to five on current GOES system). These bands, or channels, collect data from different wavelengths across the visible (light) spectrum, as well as infrared wavelengths – not visible to the human eye – using thermal sensors to detect energy from the Earth.

The different wavelength values that ABI detects indicate different elements on the surface such as trees or water, or in the atmosphere such as clouds, moisture, or smoke.

Each channel provides specific information for forecasters. They can get additional insight by combining information from multiple channels as layers on the same data to create higher-valued weather products. The information collected across all 16 channels is fed into models, tools, and systems that can be used for weather forecasting, fire detection and characterization, air pollution analysis, volcanic ash monitoring, and vegetation assessment.

4x Higher Resolution = More Pixels

ABI’s image resolution, like digital cameras today compared to 20 years ago, is even better. Similar to the jump from a 10 megapixel camera back then to a 400 plus megapixel camera today, the ABI is going to bring higher-quality, sharper imagery that is nearly live.

ABI's additional detail and richer images will give us more information to help understand the makeup of storms and track their direction, detect changes in Earth’s surface such as forest disruptions and fires, or monitor volcanic activity. Better information and earlier warnings will help save lives and property during severe weather events – and curtail unnecessary flight cancellations and severe weather area evacuations.

5x Faster Speed = More Frequent Updates

ABI can capture continuous images of the Earth’s Western Hemisphere. It scans a horizontal strip across the top of Earth, shifts down and repeats, until the entire planet is imaged. Twenty two strips across Earth in just five minutes to create a “full-disk” image of the hemisphere. Today’s imager take 26 minutes and more than 1,300 strips to capture the same image of Earth.

In a secondary scanning mode, ABI can concurrently scan regional areas such as the continental United States in five minute intervals without stopping the full disk scan which it can continue to complete in ten minute intervals while concurrently scanning the regional area. It can also concurrently take micro-regional or storm watch scans every 30 seconds during thunderstorms or hurricanes. With current GOES imagers it takes over seven minutes to scan regional or storm events and full disk scanning process would be interrupted.

The 30-second videos provide smooth coverage of storms unfolding to provide clearer pictures in a sequence with greater insight into the core of storms. In contrast, current GOES imagery seems to skip frames as it plays, which means it may not track some storm developments – seven minutes is a long time for storms to change.

Satellite image of Taiwan impacted by Typhoon Megi

Advanced Himawari Imager - Category 4 Typhoon Megi impacting Taiwan, September 2016.

Satellite Image of Sea of Okhotsk - Himawari-8 comparison to MTSAT-2

Ice in the Sea of Okhotsk, from the Japan Meteorological Agency. Left: visible imagery from MTSAT-2. Right: visible and near-infrared RGB composite imagery from Himawari-8.


Himawari-8 imager comparison to GOES-class imagers – dust storm

Configurable On Orbit = More Useful

Another unique feature of ABI is that it can be configurable in-orbit! It is the first geostationary weather satellite that can do this. From the ground system, NOAA can change the scanning modes to pinpoint areas of interest.

Scanning modes include:

  • Full Disk: Hemispheric Coverage of 83° local zenith angle, temporal resolution of 5-15 minutes, and spatial resolution of 0.5 to 2km.
  • Mesoscale: Provides coverage over a 1000x1000km box with a temporal resolution of 30 seconds, and spatial resolution of 0.5 to 2km.
  • Continental United States: The CONUS scan is performed every five minutes, providing coverage of the 5000km (E/W) and 3000km (N/S) rectangle over the United States. The spatial resolution is 0.5 to 2km.
  • Flex Mode: The flex mode will provide a full disk scan every 15 minutes, a CONUS every 5 minutes, and two mesoscale every 60 seconds (or one sub-region every 30 seconds).

For more information about L3Harris' partnership with NOAA and NASA for the GOES-R program, contact us at: weathersolutions@l3harris.com.

L3Harris ABI Scanning Mode Demonstration