NOAA's next generation geostationary weather satellites, GOES-16 operationally named GOES-East and GOES-17 operationally named GOES-West, have some pretty amazing new capabilities. One is the ability to generate images of the western hemisphere in near true color, what we are calling "geocolor." Using an algorithm created by our partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, the geocolor imagery enhancement shown here displays geostationary satellite data in different ways depending on whether it is day or night.
In daytime imagery, land and shallow-water features appear as they do in true-color imagery. Using the satellites' red and blue light channels, along with a simulated green color, a near-perfect RGB image is formed. This is more advanced than the traditional Clouds - Real-time imagery also available on SOS – where a single cloud channel (infrared) is simply mapped on a Blue Marble base map. Considerable details are being lost in that process.
In the nighttime imagery, the satellites' high resolution infrared imagery is used. Blue cloud colors indicate low-level clouds, and white colors indicate higher level clouds associated with severe weather. These are mapped with a nighttime lights layer. When combined with the daylight imagery, it creates a natural transition from day to night.
Not only do GOES-16 and GOES-17 satellites provide 4x the number of wavelength channels that can be seen, but they also take imagery much faster. The older GOES satellites took images of the hemisphere every 3 hours. GOES-16 and 17 can image the hemisphere in 15 minutes.