Weather satellites saved hundred of lives in 2021. Here’s how

Life-saving rescues were made in Alaska, Florida and California

U.S. Coast Guard rescues shark bite victim

Orlando, FLA. – Weather satellites have been around since 1960 when the first successful weather tracking satellite was first launched into orbit. Its name was TIROS-1. Throughout the years, newer weather sensing technology added to satellites gave us a new perspective and improved forecasting tools.

Most recently the new addition to the fleet of GOES satellites has propelled the scientific world to new heights. These “fourth generation” geostationary weather satellites now can scan the Earth five times faster than its predecessor, with four times the resolution and even pinpoint detailed lightning data.

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While these advanced satellites are essential for helping weather and climate forecasts, their advances have also helped save many lives directly in potentially deadly situations.

In 2021, NOAA satellites were able to help rescue 330 people in the U.S across air, land and sea. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 195 were water rescues, 29 were from aviation incidents and 106 were from events on land.

Image Credit NOAA

How are the satellites alerted?

All of NOAA’s satellites are connected to the “Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking” system (SARSAT). A system made up of national and international spacecraft that are able to hone down a location, from anywhere in the world, where a distress signal was sent. These emergency alert signals can come from beacons located on aircraft, boats or even on a handheld personal locator.

These signals are sent out and bounced off satellites to the control center in Maryland. From there, the information is quickly relayed to Rescue Coordinating Centers operated by the Air Force or Coast Guard.

What is one satellite success story of 2021?

A miner was rescued from a 20-foot shaft about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona in the Bradshaw Mountains. According to the NOAA report, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center received the alert from a personal locator beacon and contacted the owner. The nearby sheriff’s office was then able to deploy a helicopter and emergency medical units to the scene and transport him to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

Where are the majority of life-saving rescues made in the U.S?

Alaska had the most SARSAT rescues in 2021 with 55 people, followed by Florida with 52 and California with 37.


About the Author:

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.