The first full-fledged hurricane of the 2011 season, Irene, is bearing down on the US east coast. NASA has been posting amazing images and video, including this full-frame picture of the Earth showing Irene from August 24 at 11:45 UTC:
[Click to enterrenate, or grab a huge 3000×3000 pixel version).]
This was taken by the NASA/NOAA GOES 13 satellite, and Irene’s presence in the Bahamas is pretty obvious. As I write this it has maximum sustained winds of 190 km/hr (120 mph) and has a decent chance of bringing lots of rain to the east coast.
The utility of satellite images like this is pretty obvious. Long before we had eyes in the sky, we had to rely on airplanes for information, and that was incomplete to say the least. Now we can see precisely where the storms are, and use that to feed computer models to make them more accurate.
This kind of stuff saves lives, not to mention a lot of money (if you know a storm will miss you, you don’t have to shut down your shop, for example… now multiply that by a few thousand or million). It’s one of the huge advantages in being a space-faring species.
Image credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project. Tip o’ the poncho to NASA_GoddardPix on Twitter.