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NOAA satellites aided in 263 rescues in 2012


NOAA satellites are able to detect distress signals (courtesy: Kelley Elliott/NOAA)
NOAA satellites are able to detect distress signals (courtesy: Kelley Elliott/NOAA)

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

January 16, 2013 — NOAA's weather and climate satellites picked up hundreds of distress signals in 2012, leading to the rescue of 263 people in 111 emergencies.

In 2012, 182 people were rescued from the water in and around the U.S. (courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard)
In 2012, 182 people were rescued from the water in and around the U.S. (courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard)

High above the earth, NOAA's seven operational satellites are tracking climate patterns.

But they're more than just weather monitors: armed with technology that detects distress signals, the satellites also assist in search and rescue missions.

In 2012 alone the orbiters aided in 263 rescues in and around the U.S. after picking up signals from handheld locator beacons.

"NOAA satellites were instrumental in emergency situations [last year]," said Chris O'Connors, program manager for NOAA SARSAT, in a statement. "Our ability to pick up a distress signal, isolate the location within 100 yards, and initiate the appropriate rescue response definitely saves lives."

Of the 263 people rescued, 182 were pulled from the water.

One of more dramatic rescues occurred in October. A group of fourteen were pulled to safety from the HMS Bounty after strong winds from Hurricane Sandy caused the ship to take on water.

NOAA's orbiters are part of an international satellite-aided tracking network called Cospras-Sarsat. Since 1982, it has assisted in 30,000 rescues worldwide.



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