History of NOAA 16

The images that showed the extreme temperatures for Lake Michigan were Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) images taken from the AVHRR sensors on the NOAA 16 satellite. Now these images came from July 4th 2010 and has been dismissed by defenders of NOAA by saying that “They say don’t use it for climatological studies”. There is multiple problems with this defense, the first being is that those types of warnings haven’t stopped scientists from using inappropriate data before (See the paper Mann 08 and his use of a inappropriate temperature proxy after being told it couldn’t be used in temperature reconstructions by the scientist that made the proxy). However the bigger problem is that this satellite has been known to have a history of having problems in its AVHRR sensor systems as seen by public records:

On Friday 19th September 2003 NOAA 16 developed AVHRR synch. problems
similar to those on NOAA 14 (and previously NOAA 15).
Since then reports have been mixed. Some periods of good data, some


NOAA-16 started malfunctioning in early 2004, when a scan motor problem caused a ‘barcode’ appearance.


A known problem exists with the NOAA-16 Version 3 data. Due to a problem with the scan motor, all the channel data are shifted sporadically causing the channels to contain data from another channel; thus, the derived parameters are in error when this channel shift occurs. The dates when the scan motor problem affects the data are list in Table 12. Note however that the scan motor problem does not affect the entire composited image on these dates, but rather there are patches of bad data within the composite.




 Figure 2 shows time series of global number of observations, mean, standard deviation, skewness,

and kurtosis of SST anomalies for NOAA 16-18 and MetOp-A (left panel: day, right panel: night). Each

point represents an 8 day period of global statistics. Mean anomalies from N17 and N18 during

nighttime are highly consistent, whereas N16 shows anomalous behavior due to sensor problems

(Figure 2b).


Volume 26, Issue 9 (September 2009)

Effect of Out-of-Band Response in NOAA-16 AVHRR Channel 3b on Top-of-Atmosphere Radiances Calculated with the Community Radiative Transfer Model

This study shows that this discontinuity is caused by the out-of-band response in NOAA-16 AVHRR Ch3b and by using a single layer to the NCEP GFS temperature profiles above 10 hPa for the alpha version of CRTM. The problem has been solved in CRTM v.1.1, which uses one of the six standard atmospheres to fill in the missing data above the top pressure level in the input NCEP GFS data. It is found that, because of the out-of-band response, the NOAA-16 AVHRR Ch3b has sensitivity to atmospheric temperature at high altitudes.


Click the link below to see the latest status of NOAA 16 and the dates of the all the problems with the satellite:


Now certain other places around the planet that claim to be skeptical of science, point out in an article today something that the real skeptics pointed out at the minimum yesterday: That RSS and UAH do not use NOAA 16 data. With that said they then try to paper over the fact that scientists studying the Great Lakes use the data from this secondary satellite, that’s why it was on a major US university’s website and is still used by NOAA.

Now ask yourself these important questions: Why is even local studies being done with data from a KNOWN bad satellite, giving KNOWN bad data for years? Why isn’t the data from the NOAA 18 and 19 satellites being used in the MSU archives, it is the primary after all?

Also we are told that Coastwatch is not used for climate studies. Why then does NOAA on their Coastwatch website say that Coastwatch data is used for Climate studies?


The CoastWatch search interface provides access to multiple satellite ocean remote sensing data and products useful for climate studies. In the search panel on the left, a default set of products have been pre-selected. These products will activate after a region has been selected. Modification of the products, sensors and satellites may be selected/highlighted by using “[shift]-click” and dates may be entered manually into the text fields or by using the pop-up calendars.


When you go to that page you see a data selector. When you select the Great Lakes Region, then AVHRR sensor, then SST, you then get a list of satellites to choose from: NOAA 15-19 and Metop 2. Now you can still pull up data from those secondary satellites such as NOAA 15 and 17 but when you select the NOAA 16 option you get no info because NOAA has pulled that data once this was brought to their attention. Matter of fact the ONLY time you get to use the NOAA 16 data option is when you select AVHRR and SST.

Here is the Metadata from NOAA, it tells you which platforms and sensors were used in one of their Global SST datasets:

Sea Surface Temperature (100 KM Global)

Metadata from the NOAA Metadata Manager and Repository (NMMR)

 Platform and Instrument Identification:

Mission Name:
POES > Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites
Platform Full Name:
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration-16
Platform Short Name:
Platform Serial Identifier:
Instrument Name:
Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer/3
Instrument Short Name:


Again why is a satellite that is considered secondary, and KNOWN for years to be wrong, having it’s data archived for use for any reason?


2 responses to “History of NOAA 16

  1. Eric August 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    They still archive the data because it still provides good data on days that aren’t cloudy. It is still very much useful.

  2. boballab August 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm


    Obviously you didn’t read the links or you would know the errors have nothing to do with clouds. Right in the error report from NSIDC it points the error out:

    Due to a problem with the scan motor, all the channel data are shifted sporadically causing the channels to contain data from another channel; thus, the derived parameters are in error when this channel shift occurs

    The scan motor sits on the satellite in space and has nothing to do with clouds. What happens as it states is that periodiacilly starting in 2001 the AVHRR is corrupted with data from a different channel. There can be zero clouds in the sky when this malfuction occurs.

    Just take a look at the history of this sensor on NOAA’s own page. Things got so bad they have left it in Yellow status since 2005 all due to a faulty Scan Motor. Here is a few of their comments:

    09/17/2003 16:40:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR scan motor current and synch delta values acting erratically. Status downgraded to YELLOW.

    01/04/2004 00:00:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR Scan Motor and synch delta at significantly elevated levels, imagery exhibiting wave patterns.

    01/06/2004 00:00:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR declared YELLOW in status because of degraded imagery, scan motor performance and synch delta statistics.

    03/16/2004 02:46:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR Scan motor current began intermittently surging to 300+ mAmps. Imagery barcodes started to occur. Surges lasted approx 2 minutes then retreated back to 265 mA for 15 minutes then surged again, continually.

    03/20/2004 18:50:00 SCAN MOTOR Scan motor intermittent current surges similar to 16Mar04 profile resumed. Most images showing bar codes.

    10/23/2004 12:00:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR scan motor current became elevated. Synch deltas also quickly runup to “pegged” after each rephase over south pole. Imagery degraded (waves) but no bar codes as yet.

    09/24/2005 18:00:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR scan motor current higher and less stable. Imagery bar codes starting to intermittently appear. Imagery clearing up with each MIRP Rephase enable operation, executed once per orbit over the south pole.

    09/29/2005 16:00:00 SCAN MOTOR N16 AVHRR downgraded to RED status because of elevated scan motor currents and persistent bar coded imagery.

    10/18/2005 16:30:00 SCAN MOTOR AVHRR scan motor current significantly improved over past several days as is synch delta values and imagery. No bar coded images since 12 Oct. Status upgraded to YELLOW.


    the 18 Oct 2005 is the last entry, that sensor has not been taken out of “Yellow” since that time due to the scan motor. So clouds are not the problem, the KNOWN bad satellite is the problem and should not have been used. There is 2 known good satellites that should have been used: NOAA 18 and 19 but were not.
    You can see NOAA-18’s Green Status here for its AVHRR: http://www.oso.noaa.gov/poesstatus/componentStatusSummary.asp?spacecraft=18&subsystem=3
    You can see NOAA-19’s Green Status here for its AVHRR: http://www.oso.noaa.gov/poesstatus/componentStatusSummary.asp?spacecraft=19&subsystem=4

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