NASA: The 50th Anniversary of ATS-1

Fifty years ago, at 9:12 p.m. Eastern on December 6, 1966, a NASA Atlas rocket carried the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS-1) to space, becoming the first Earth-observing satellite ever placed in geostationary orbit.


“What if the weather moves, not the satellite?”

The satellite era began in 1957 when the Soviet Union hurtled Sputnik into a low-Earth orbit, launching the world into the space race. In the years that followed, dozens of satellites, used to view Earth’s weather from space, communicate around the world, and study the near-Earth environment, were placed in low-Earth and polar orbits. The first weather experiment, an instrument used to measure Earth’s radiation budget, was flown aboard Explorer VII, launched by the U.S. on October 13, 1959.

The world’s first operational meteorological satellite, TIROS-1, circumnavigated the globe for the first time in 1960, forever proving the worth of weather observing satellites to the world and opening the door for the weather systems of the future.

As these early satellites raced around the globe a few hundred miles above the surface, they captured an impressive array of visible and infrared imagery of the planet in narrow segments, or swaths, that were later stitched together to create a full image. Although these satellites revolutionized scientists’ understanding of localized weather phenomena, it was still very difficult to grasp global weather circulation, the key to better weather prediction.

The question quickly became, “How does one continuously monitor the movement of weather over large portions of earth’s surface?” The answer, as it turns out, was more than 22,000 miles away in geostationary orbit.

ATS1_Launch_CaptionATS-1 launched at 9:12 p.m. Eastern on December 6, 1966 aboard a NASA Atlas rocket. Credit: NASA

The launch of ATS-1

On December 6, 1966, a NASA Atlas rocket carried the Applications Technology Satellite, or ATS-1, into geostationary orbit. From there, the satellite was able to precisely match the spin of our planet on its axis and remain over a fixed point on the surface.

ATS-1, and the six models that followed, served as a platform for evaluating different kinds of spacecraft stabilization and communications techniques, while also carrying several scientific and meteorological experiments.

During its 18-year life, ATS-1 tested spin-stabilization and 3-axis stabilization systems, investigated the geostationary environment, tested the ability to act as a link between ground stations and aircraft, demonstrated collection of meteorological data from remote terminals, and evaluated the feasibility of using VHF signals for navigation. It also transmitted educational programs and provided health, research, and community services to the United States and several Pacific locations, including the Cook, Mariana, Marshall and Caroline Islands, as well as West and American Samoa, Melanesia, New Zealand and Australia.

The satellite was also responsible for providing the first full-disk image of Earth ever taken from geostationary orbit.

11Dec1966_ATS1ATS-1, and its Spin-scan cloud-cover Camera, provided this image on December 11, 1966- the first full disk image of Earth ever taken from geostationary orbit. Credit: NASA

The Spin-Scan Cloud-cover Camera

One of the many instruments aboard ATS-1 was the spin-scan cloud-cover camera, invented by Verner Suomi, the “Father of Satellite Meteorology.” Suomi, and his co-inventor, Robert Parent, both worked at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Since the first weather experiment launched in 1959, the UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) has been at the forefront of developing the satellite technology that allows scientists around the world to view and study Earth from space.

Because ATS-1 spun to stay stabilized in space, taking an image of Earth became rather tricky. To overcome this, the camera scanned a small strip of the Earth with each rotation of the satellite. By tilting the mirror slightly for the next rotation, an image of Earth could be pieced together line by line in less than 30 minutes.

Suddenly, scientists could see weather moving around an entire hemisphere while the satellite seemed to remain still, revolutionizing weather forecasting forever.

Earth%20MoonATS-1 captured the first image of Earth and the moon together, a feat often mistakenly attributed to Voyager 1. (Voyager 1 captured the first single-frame image that showed the entire Earth and moon.) Credit: NASA

Continuing the Legacy

After the success of ATS-1 and Suomi’s invention, the multi-color spin scan camera was flown on ATS-3 in 1967, which captured the first full-color image of Earth from space.

The first six geostationary ATS satellites, and their meteorological experiments, paved the way for NASA’s Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS) series. It did not take long (October 1975) before the SMS-1 and -2 geostationary weather satellite experiments morphed into NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program, today’s weather eyes in the sky.

Click here to learn more about NOAA’s current GOES satellites, including GOES-16, America’s most advanced weather satellite to-date.

414448main_g-66-3651An artist's rendering of the ATS-1 spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Images and information courtesy NASA

As big of news as the recent launch of GOES-R was last month, back in 1966, this was bigger.  Much bigger! 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

Jeremy 6sx

Jeremy's Bio

Find me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Email me at jkappell@wdrb.com



Google Unveils A 3-Decade Timelapse Of The Earth...

WOW! Google released a stunning a new time-lapse video that shows the evolution of major destinations around the world over the last three decades. The team worked with more than 5.4 million discrete satellite images taken from 1984 - 2016 and produced this masterpiece...


Video Courtesy: TIME


-Rick DeLuca



Big Rain-Maker on the Way! How much to expect...

Clouds have arrived and rain won't be far behind!

An area of upper low pressure is spinning over Central Texas.  Ahead of it, rain and thunderstorms are spreading north out of the Gulf and into the Tennessse River Valley.


This area of rain reaches us tonight and will bring us potentially some very generous rainfall amounts over the next 24 hours. 

Let's time it out with AdvanceTrak...







AT shows showers developing south of the river by late evening before spreading to the north overnight. 

The heaviest activity holds off until early tomorrow morning with a few rumbles of thunder also possible for areas south of the river.  

The steady rain looks to taper off to showers by late morning before ending into the first part of the afternoon. 

How much are we talking about?

The rainfall potential is going up with this system with the latest run of AdvanceTrak showing a generous amounts  of around an inch for areas along the Ohio River with lesser amounts of a half inch or more for our southern and northern counties. 

Rainfall projection

The "American Models" or the GFS and NAM are showing similar amounts along the river with heavier rainfall along or south of the Parkways.  The NAM has been particularly bullish with the rain potential showing some areas close to two inches!  

Rainfall projection2

So what do I think?

I like our chances for some very beneficial rains.  While this won't eliminate the drought completely, like we saw with the system last week, it will put another sizeable dent in it.  I think 1.0 to 1.5 inches appears likely for areas along and south of the river. Southern Indiana looks to get a good drink too on the order of 0.75" to 1.00"  

Marc and Rick will have a full update on our rain potential and the looming cold on WDRB in the News this evening.

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

Jeremy 6sx

Jeremy's Bio

Find me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Email me at jkappell@wdrb.com

Soggy Tuesday Morning Drive

Today is going to be mild with breaks in the clouds and temperatures in the upper 40s and low 50s. However, it will change rapidly by tomorrow morning thanks to a  closed low over Mexico and a surface low over the Gulf Coast. They will both track toward the Ohio River Valley over the next 12-16 hours.

12-5 surf map

This will increase deep layer moisture and return rain to the area late tonight and Tuesday morning. The showers will be scattered to start around 2 am but eventually becoming widespread.  I cannot stress enough this could lead to a hectic morning and commute tomorrow because the rain could be heavy at times. 

12-5 at 2 am

Notice on this image of Advancetrak that at 6:30 am, nearly the entire viewing area is seeing rain and there are pockets of heavy rain too. This will continue through the morning hours. 

12-5 at 6am

Yep, it's still continuing at 8 am. . . 

12-5 at 8 am

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Only half of our day will be soggy. By lunchtime, we will clear out the rain and the rest of our Tuesday will be dry. 

12-5 at 12 pm

This will be a beneficial rain in the midst of a drought from the fall. Expect about a half an inch up to an inch of rain in most places. In our SE counties, where we expect the heaviest rain, there could be locally higher amounts of an inch or more.  We could also hear a rumble of thunder or two. That is most likely in southern KY.  

12-5 rainfall totals

There are several systems at play in our forecast and an arctic cold front is going to bring a major cold snap by the end of the week! 

12-5 highlights of week

For more information on that be sure to tune into the news this evening with Marc and Rick! 

Katie McGraw's Facebook Page

-Katie McGraw 


From Rain to Snow? What to expect this week!

One storm exits, and the next one is set to pounce!  

A vigorous upper level low pressure system spinning over Northern Mexico looks to bring us a good bet for beneficial rains late Monday night into Tuesday.


Let's time it out with AdvanceTrak...







Showers develop after midnight and really picks up towards morning on Tuesday with heavy heavy rainfall a good bet for your morning commute.  Following a morning soaker, rain ends by afternoon on Tuesday. 

How much?

Most models agree that 0.5 to 0.75" will be common.  The GFS is projecting locally better than an inch south of the river.  I like that possibility.  Keep your fingers crossed, we still need the moisture.


The Looming Cold

Beyond that, we continue to monitor bitterly cold temps across interior Alaska where the mercury has plunged to some 2o or even 30 degrees below zero.  


This matters to us, because a chunk of this Arctic Air remains on track to plunge into the Central and Eastern US this week.  Take a look at these forecasted temps via the GFS.  By far the coldest so far this season...




Feeling The Chill

It will feel colder when you factor in the wind with wind chill values hovering in the teens for much of the day on Thursday before dropping into the single digits by Friday morning!  This will be the coldest air we have seen since last February.... about 10 months ago! 


First Snow?

In addition to the brutal cold, Thursday continues to look like a GREAT candidate for snow showers or snow squalls!  I think they are likely and they could even come down heavy enough for minor accumulations on elevated surfaces such as roof tops, grassy areas and such.  

Next Weekend?

There remains a ton of uncertainty concerning a possible system late next weekend.  As of this writing, timing, strength and the amount of cold associated with it is completely up in the air.  Just know that there is a chance for a wintry mix into Sunday.  We'll have all week to watch this one. 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

Jeremy 6sx

Jeremy's Bio

Find me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Email me at jkappell@wdrb.com

Tracking Sunday Showers

We woke up to a colorful radar this morning with a wintry mix across the area. Most of the light snow and wintry mix was positioned north of the river and the light rain was in the south in our Kentucky counties. Most of the precipitation was burning off before it was hitting the ground, resulting in a light drizzle, mist, and wet snow across the region.  So far, no measurable precipitation has been noted in downtown. 

12-4 radar am

Since about 9 am, there is a lull in the activity for most of the area that will continue until mid afternoon. It will be very cloudy & dreary during that time with uniform temps in the mid 40s and light drizzle will be possible. 

12-4 radar now

However, we are not done with the rain for today! Shower chances spike this afternoon around 2 pm. This is from a plume of moisture positioned in the gulf that is being pulled toward our region. 

12-4 radar south


By 2 pm, showers will return to the majority of the area. They will be light, but it is likely many of us will see them. They will be on and off all afternoon. Notice they are widespread and rather pesky. 

12-4 AT 2

They continue straight through dinner time. 

12-4 AT 5

And will exit the region between 8-10 pm. We will be left with mostly cloudy skies for the rest of the night with lows once again in the mid to upper 30s. 

12-4 AT 9

Tomorrow morning, there is a chance for some patchy fog, particularly in areas that see the most rain today. Prepare for that for your morning commute. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a few peeks of sun and highs in the upper 40s. Rain returns late Monday night and into Tuesday. 


To find out the exact timing of Tuesday's rain and also A MAJOR COLD SNAP later in the week (as well as the potential for some snow), be sure to tune into WDRB News with Jeremy this evening. He will have the latest information for you at that time! 


I will be in for Jude tomorrow morning, bright and early, to discuss those chilly numbers above! Until then, you can find me on social media with the links below. Have a great Sunday! Stay warm and dry! 

Katie McGraw's Facebook Page



Busy "Winter-Like" Pattern Developing. When to Expect Rain and then Snow!

I'll be brief and just hit the highlights here.    A very active "winter-like" pattern sets up this week with multiple rounds of rain and eventually temps come crashing with our first snow chances too!


We are tracking a pair of low pressure systems.  The first travels south of us tomorrow bringing a good bet for some cold rain here.  

Let's time it out with AdvanceTrak...






While the first one brings primarily light rain, mainly during the afternoon/evening on Sunday, the second storm, which comes quickly behind, it will bring the possibility of some more beneficial rainfall amounts.



Rain looks to start some time after midnight Monday night and looks to wind diminish during the morning hours on Tuesday.  


Between the two systems, generous rainfall amounts of between three-quarters of an inch and an inch will be possible.

Rainfall projection

Now let's talk winter!

Notice how cold those temps are over Alaska where interior portions of the state are dealing with readings in the -20 to -30° F range. Some brutal stuff! 


This arctic air mass is set to invade the Central and Eastern US by late in the week with a full on shot arriving here by Thursday.

Gfs 850

These will be BY FAR the coldest conditions we've seen so far this season and the coldest overall since last Februrary.  

Highs on Thursday won't escape the 30's and wind chill readings look to plummet into the single digits for parts of the area by Friday morning! 


As mentioned, this cold will arrive with a chance of snow too!  While too early to talk about possible accumulations, just know that snow showers are likely Wednesday night and Thursday morning.  They should taper off to flurries Thursday afternoon and accumulations on grassy/elevated surfaces can't be ruled out at this point.  

In addition to the possibility of snow Thursday morning, there will be another, perhaps greater chance for snow late next weekend.  

I'll dive into more on that possibility tomorrow.  Stay tuned! 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

Jeremy 6sx

Jeremy's Bio

Find me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Email me at jkappell@wdrb.com

Dramatic Video: Firefighter Escapes Wildfire

Videos continue to pour in after the "unfathomable" wildfires in Tennessee this week.  And this is another dramatic and scary one making the rounds on social media. The terrifying video below was captured by Lieutenant Steve Coker and his fiery journey through Gatlinburg earlier this week. It really captures how dangerous the conditions were.

Video Courtesy: Global News

The deadly fires are responsible for the deaths of at least 13 people but officials say that number could rise in the coming days. A number of families are still searching for their loved ones. Residents were allowed to enter the area yesterday (Friday) to see what was left of their homes and to salvage any of their belongings.

Katie McGraw's Facebook Page

  -Meteorologist Katie McGraw


WATCH: Waterspout turned Tornado Churns off Coast of Destin, Florida

Severe weather ripped across northwestern Florida on Wednesday, leaving behind downed trees and damaged buildings thanks to highs winds related to a waterspout that eventually reformed into a tornado on land. Thankfully, there were no reported injuries. The National Weather Service said the radar signature of the storm featured a tight and strong circulation. One meteorologist, Mark Wool from the NWS, called it a "tornadic waterspout" in one interview.

This wild video below, was recorded by Caleb Richardson and posted to social media. It has since gone viral. You can clearly see the waterspout on the water, dissipate after it hits land, only to reform briefly as a tornado moments later. Pretty scary but also cool to watch!  This is a good reminder that waterspouts can be incredibly dangerous too!

Video Courtesy: The Cale Brich via Instagram

Below is the Mobile NWS storm report and public information statement from the 11-30 EF-0 tornado. In the image following the statement, there are two red dots on the panhandle of FL and those are what we are interested in for this blog.

Rating:                 EF-0
Estimated Peak Wind:    80 mph
Path Length /statute/:  0.75 miles
Path Width /maximum/:   175 yards
Fatalities:             0
Injuries:               0

Start Date:             November 30th, 2016
Start Time:             10:38 am CST
Start Location:         Just south of Hurlburt Field along US-98
Start Lat/Lon:          30.4105/-86.6812

End Date:               November 30th, 2016
End Time:               10:40 am CST
End Location:           Just west of Ready Avenue NW
End Lat/Lon:            30.4176/-86.6713

Survey summary: The tornado started as a waterspout over Santa Rosa Sound,
briefly lifted and then touched down as a tornado just south of Hurlburt
Field along U.S. Highway 98. The tornado tracked northeast and produced
sporadic damage along its path before lifting near Ready Avenue NW. The
damage was concentrated along Kohler Drive and Mary Esther Road. The
most significant damage occurred at two residences. One residence lost
part of its overhanging roof and the other home experienced significant
damage to a southward facing sunroom. Power lines were downed in the area
along with sporadic tree damage. 

12-2 storm reports

Here is another video of the Waterspout to give you an idea of how LARGE it was when it was on the water.

Video Courtesy: Breaking Disaster


Katie McGraw's Facebook Page

  -Meteorologist Katie McGraw

Hawaii Five Sn-O-w

From Jude Redfield...

    Ohio Valley snow hounds are soooo jealous of Hawaii. That is correct...higher elevations have seen some snow already, but a big one is coming over the next 24 hours! It isn't that uncommon to have snow above 8k feet in Hawaii, but this will be HUGE snow storm.  Winter Storm Warnings are in effect and some spots above 11k feet could see up to 30" or more!!!!  Essentially all areas between 8k - 11k feet wind up with close to 2 feet.  Put myself in the column of sooo jealous. 

Below is a picture of the current snow cover on the ground near the observatory on the Big Island. This is nothing compared to what is about to hit. I think it is gorgeous. Who else wants a big snow storm like this? I know I'm not alone :)