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Channel Description
Channel 9: The 'Mid-level' Water Vapor band - 6.9 ┬Ám (micrometers).

Unless higher-level clouds obscure the view, this band can view as low as 500 mb level (about 18,000 feet/5,500 meters). It is used for mid- and upper-level water vapor tracking, jet stream identification, hurricane track forecasting, mid-latitude storm forecasting, severe weather analysis, and mid-level moisture estimation.

The satellites do not directly detect moisture but instead detect temperature. Water vapor absorbs radiation at these particular frequencies, and thus the satellite does not sense much radiation when there is high water vapor. It records this as a low temperature, which is interpreted as high water vapor content. When radiation is not absorbed and thus received by the satellite, it senses a high temperature and consequently interprets a low amount of water vapor.

As a result, the depth at which the satellite peers into the atmosphere will vary with the amount of moisture over any particular point from day to day.

GOES-West Channel Description courtesy of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)