In meteorology, a floater is a satellite image that is focused on a particular event or location - normally a tropical cyclone or a disturbance. This is achieved by the use of cameras on geostationary satellites (also known as geosynchronous satellites) which orbit the Earth at the same rate the Earth rotates. As a result, the satellite "looks" at the same area constantly. This can be particularly useful in monitoring tropical systems because they will not exit the viewing frame or the camera.


Floater images can be used for monitoring and tracking of weather systems, especially tropical cyclones. Floater imagery can be found at the Satellite Services Department of NOAA. All floaters hosted by the SSD have 11 different types of enhancements which emphasize different aspects of the targeted focus.


Enhancement Name Abbreviation Description
Visible VIS Imagery in the visible spectrum in black and white. Visible only works in daylight.
Shortwave IR2 Shortwave infrared imagery, also called "night visible" and emphasizes strong convection and cloud phase changes. This can also be used to track fires.
Water Vapor WV Shows the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere and emphasizes moist and dry areas.
RGB RGB Imagery where red, green, blue, and infrared color channels to create a false color image.
IR4 (None) IR4 Image with no enhancement. Shows cloud patterns and convergence zones both day and night
AVN AVN Shows cloud temperature in aviation colors.
Dvorak BD Imagery specially enhanced to be used to determine intensity through the Dvorak technique.
Funktop FT Created by Ted Funk and emphasizes intense areas of precipitation
JSL JSL Created by Jim Lynch and emphasizes the contrast between high and low clouds.
Rainbow RB Shows cloud temperature with the entire visible specturm.
Rainbow Top RBTOP Shows the same as rainbow imagery, except very cold and hot temperatures are emphasized in gray and black colors.

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, commonly known as GOES, are a famous group of geostationary satellites that are used to take floater images and monitor the weather. GOES 1, the first GOES satellite, was launched on October 16, 1975. Since then, 15 additional satellites have been launched, but today only 4 satellites, GOES 12 to 15, are in service. Today, GOES satellites are an important part of weather forecasting and monitoring.

Coverage Zones

Today 4 GOES satellites are still in operation and cover specific areas of Earth. Keep in mind that each of them orbit far enough from the Earth so that they can view the entire disk.

  • GOES 12 (GOES South): 90 to 75 degrees west
  • GOES 13 (GOES East): 75 wesst
  • GOES 14: 89.5 west
  • GOES 15 (GOES West):