Local forecasters have a new weather satellite at their disposal that could make forecasts more accurate.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s geostationary weather satellite, GOES-17, launched into orbit March of last year. The satellite, also known as GOES West for its orbital position over the Pacific Ocean off of the West Coast, just became operational Tuesday.

“The satellite is providing a tremendous amount of data for us to use,” said Will Ahue with the National Weather Service’s Portland office. “Before we were getting an image every 15 minutes; now we have the ability to get images every five minutes, with even some higher temporal resolution images every one minute.”

Ahue said overall the new satellite will help the National Weather Service give the public better weather information.

“This definitely has the potential to help increase our confidence with our forecast and provide more data into our weather models, which will definitely help increase forecasting accuracy across the area,” Ahue said.

Snow and ice blanket Hood River, Ore., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Winter weather complicated commutes in parts of Oregon Tuesday and may return later in the week.

Snow and ice blanket Hood River, Ore., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Winter weather complicated commutes in parts of Oregon Tuesday and may return later in the week.

Moriah Ratner/OPB

Accuracy in the National Weather Service’s forecasts became an issue this week as the agency struggled to confidently say whether the region would be seeing more snow Tuesday night, or if the precipitation would fall as heavy rain.

Some social media users complained that the forecast included snow as a possibility, even as predicted low temperatures remained above freezing.

“It’s like people assume we want to be ‘WRONG ALL THE TIME,’” the Portland office of the National Weather Service wrote on Twitter. “We do our best to provide the most accurate forecast that we can based on the information we have available to us.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the satellite can help predict “Pacific storm systems, severe storms, fog, wildfires and other environmental dangers.”