Teaching Notes

Example Output

Example Output
GOES track shown in ImageJ. The red line shows the measurement of the hurricane track over a 7-day period.

Students will learn how to transform a series of GOES images into an animation, and how to create a storm track from that animation. By synthesizing information from the track and other sources, students will be able to determine storm speed and direction.

Grade Level

This chapter is appropriate for grades 7-12.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:

  • describe the positioning and motion of GOES satellites;
  • navigate to a GOES website and interpret the three primary types of GOES images (visible; water vapor; infrared);
  • explore and animate web-based GOES images;
  • animate a set of GOES images using the ImageJ software; and
  • using the tools of ImageJ, calculate the speed and direction of clouds and storms in an animated set of GOES images.


This chapter provides a supplement to the study of weather systems. As students learn about the various types of clouds associated with different weather systems, they can apply their new knowledge by identifying and tracking those systems on the GOES website. Retrieving the images from the GOES website and developing slow-motion animations of cloud movement can be a real motivator for students. You can also use this chapter as a supplement to the study of the Earth system.

Background Information

General information about the GOES satellites can be found on the Geostationary Satellites website. For a more detailed explanation of these satellites and their role in weather observations, review Part 1 of this chapter.

Instructional Strategies

When meteorologists announce that a storm system is possibly approaching your region, there is typically a lot of interest. School-aged youth are often excited about the possibility of a school closing, or they may just have an interest in experiencing the power of the storm. You can tap into that interest by having your students download GOES images, track the movement of the storm themselves, and make predictions about when and where it will pass. The images provide an opportunity for applying or extending their knowledge of weather in real time.

If you can't interrupt your teaching schedule because of approaching weather, you can still download the GOES images yourself and use them with your students when you have the time. GOES images are stored in an accessible archive for 21 days. Once you have them, you can use them to reconstruct the development and movement of that storm whenever it is convenient.

You can supplement GOES images with information from the website of the National Weather Service. Here you'll find a variety of representation of current weather conditions, including maps of weather fronts, temperature, wind speed, precipitation, and more.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 5-8

  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
  • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.

Grades 9-12

  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.
  • Scientists rely on technology to enhance the gathering and manipulation of data.
  • Interactions among the solid earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and organisms have resulted in the ongoing evolution of the earth system.

Time Required

Three to five 45-minute class periods.

Other Resources

Hurricane Monitoring, Education, and Image Archive sites.

Teaching Resources

The following 15 images of Hurricane Irene were downloaded from the GOES satellite image server. They are from August 24-27, 2011. To download the zipped file of images, right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) and download the file to your downloads folder or desktop. Unzip the file to view the images in ImageJ, as described in Parts 5 and 6 of this chapter. Zipped file of GOES Hurricane Irene images (Zip Archive 2.8MB Aug28 11)