Satellites

Satellites are used to collect information about the surface of the Earth and the Earth’s atmosphere. Environment Canada operates a network of satellite reception stations which continually receive data that is broadcast by various weather satellites operated by other countries and organizations. The data is then processed into a variety of image products including the visible and infrared images provided on Weatheroffice.

Weather satellites circle the Earth in one of two orbit patterns:

  • Geostationary satellites, which orbit high above the Earth’s equator (35,800 km) at the same rotation speed as the Earth itself hence remaining constantly over the same location; and
  • Polar orbiting satellites which orbit about 850 km above the Earth’s surface, passing over the polar regions each time they circle the earth while passing over mid-latitude locations twice per day.

The meteorological sensors found on satellites can detect a variety of things, including: the location and movement of clouds and cloud systems; snow and ice cover; particles from fires, pollution, and sand and dust storms; ocean currents; and many other types of environmental information.

The latest animated and fixed satellite images can be found on the Weather.gc.ca website. The images, some of which are updated every 30 minutes, can be viewed on an international scale all the way down to a regional level.