GOES "Realtime" Weighting Functions

Environmental satellites, such as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series, measure infrared radiation coming from the Earth’s ocean-land-atmosphere system. The satellites measure this radiation in discrete ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum, called bands or channels. These channels “see” different vertical levels of the atmosphere and are sensitive to the different gases in the atmosphere, such as water vapor.

Weighting functions are one tool that can help visualize the vertical contribution of radiation for a given channel. Here we present weighting functions for the water vapor sensitive bands of the GOES Sounder and all four infrared bands of the GOES Imager.

A weighting function is calculated from a vertical profile of the atmosphere (temperature, moisture, and ozone) using a forward model. The profiles for these weighting functions come from radiosondes and, in the case of ozone, assumptions made about the atmosphere. Radiosondes are launched regularly at National Weather Service offices around the United States every twelve hours.

The following web pages feature weighting functions calculated for the two operational GOES satellites (GOES-East and GOES-West) around the United States in near real-time:

To learn more about satellites and the electromagnetic spectrum visit:

To see realtime GOES imagery, visit:

Last Updated:
June 2, 2006
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