Come on, Irene

By Phil Plait | August 24, 2011 1:45 pm

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 3000x3000 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.


Related posts:

- Attack of the cyclones
- Severe storms over U. S. seen from space
- It’s a hurricane. Shouldn’t it be EYEgor?
- Hurricane Earl from space
- Hurricane double whammy

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (27)

  1. To be pedantic, Irene is the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. The Eastern Pacific has already had three.

  2. Powers of mass destruction aside… she’s quite a pretty hurricane, isn’t she?

  3. Paul

    It’s one of the huge advantages of a species that can send automated satellites into space. Crewed spaceflight, not so much.

  4. Bill

    I can’t read the title of this post without hearing it sung by Dexy’s Midnight Runners…

  5. It pains me to think about it in these terms but thusfar, we are decidedly *not* a space-faring species.

    We have never even left the Earth’s orbit. The moon doesn’t count since it is still in Earth’s grasp.

    We should have been to Mars decades ago.

    We have the technology. We lack the political will.

  6. alfaniner

    I can’t read the title of this post without hearing it sung by Dexy’s Midnight Runners…
    Me too, even realizing that they sang about “Eileen”.

  7. Sean H.

    NO! Stay away! It poses the risk of throwing a wrench into my Dragon*Con travel plans, thought, luckily, its predicted path is no longer straight toward me. A hurricane after D*C, that would be fine. One plenty of time before D*C would also be fine. Stay away!

  8. @Curtis Faith,

    I agree. I wonder if you’d call a developing nation “seafaring” if they had boats but never ventured so far out that the shoreline stopped being visible.

  9. hhEb09'1

    In the case of hurricanes though, we shut down hundreds of thousands of places, on the off chance the hurricane will hit there…Maybe the title should be “Good Night, Irene”

  10. @Sean H.,

    I’m with you. My wife and I are planning a 10th anniversary trip to Disney World without the kids. Do you know how rare trips without the kids are? And to Disney World (where we went on our honeymoon)? The kids were going to stay with my parents on Long Island but the track of the storm seems to go right over Long Island right on the day we were going to head down there. Go out to sea, Irene!

  11. Travis McDermott

    “Goodnight Irene” would have been better.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs3mj1E8LSU

  12. Irene is suppose to be visiting this area late Saturday, I think. An earthquake on Tuesday, a hurricane on Saturday…certainly an exciting week!

  13. I see I’m not the only one thinking of that same song.

    ObComplaint: “Hey, I thought this was an astronomy blog, not a music video station.” :-) (See also Don’t stop the Detroit Science Center.)

  14. @Jewel:

    Speaking of which…

    “Earthquakes, volcanoes. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

  15. gf

    Yep, here in central North Carolina the Milk shelves are already bare, but the beer coolers are nearly full and stacks of Natural Light go almost to the ceiling (my guess is the beer buyers are waiting until Friday).

    Honestly the Gov is already on the radio telling people to seek a safe place etc. Even a near miss closes lots of places. Of course this is the same state that closes school for snow days even when the roads are just wet. I swear there are 2 snowplows in my county and they follow each other around just in case one gets stuck in the 3/4 inch of snow….

  16. Unfortunately, we have to maintain that space-faring status. It isn’t a laurel we can rest on. This image is from a Geostationary satellite, and that program is ok for now. But the polar orbiting program is in serious trouble, with a lengthy gap between platforms coming. How long, nobody knows, as it’s a congressional decision, with the House inclined not to fund the program, and the Senate not vigorously favorable itself. Last I’d heard, if the 2012 budget were ‘nice’, it’s a 1.5 year gap. If it isn’t, just keep adding years to the gap.

  17. NAW

    Sadly, it looks like it will miss a lot of the states still in drought status. A lot of southern states can use this rain and they just keep missing us. Though Texas is in the largest need for a storm. (no joke intended)

  18. Jamey

    I’m never sure just how true-color these images are, though – especially with that really bright blue blob right around the Caribbeans. Does the satellite take B/W images, from which the clouds are isolated and then overlain onto BigBlueMarble images, or does it actually take true-color images (as true-color as camera images can be, of course)?

  19. RwFlynn

    I’m right behind you now Irene
    Waiting, watching, oh so close ….

    Also, in a funny coincidence, the last major hurricane that caused problems here in VA was Hurricane Isabel. We were without electricity for over a week, and the large trees in our neighborhood crushed a few houses, with a near miss for ours. Now here we are preparing for another “I” named storm to (possibly) cause the same kinds of damage. And this is the first real Atlantic hurricane of the season too! And after an earthquake just a few days before? If I didn’t know any better I’d be wearing a tinfoil hat for sure.

  20. lqd

    Is the GOES satellite in geocentric orbit? That looks like a pretty distant shot.

  21. Daniel J. Andrews

    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

    That is the message that needs to go to Washington…the budget cut for NOAA may mean they lose satellite coverage. Short-sighted to say the least..but that seems to be how political systems around the world operate. At times like this I can’t help but hear Kent Brockman (Simpson’s) quip about democracy (easily googable).

    thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/05/23/208154/gop-cut-crucial-weather-satellites-with-fierce-hurricane-season-looming/

  22. VinceRN

    Weather is just freakin’ amazing. Except here inWestern Washington where it is boring.

  23. Kochira

    @Brad, 1

    Thank you for expanding my storm knowledge. Previously I was under the impression that Hurricane = Atlantic, Tyhpoon = Pacific, North, and Cyclone = Pacific, South. Updating Hurricane = Atlantic, East Pacific.

  24. UserGoogol

    Curtis Faith: We’ve gone to Mars a bunch of times, and even travelled beyond Pluto. It seems rather old fashioned to dismiss that simply because we didn’t send our feeble ape bodies along for the ride.

  25. TC

    Sorry to nitpick here, but shouldn’t California be dark at 4:45 PDT in late August? I mean sunrise is around 6:20 local time and this is why I get the feeling this image might be slightly ‘shopped.

  26. Jason

    The problem of claiming NOAA has to gut their satellite budget is that the proposal is an over-all Cut to the budget. Where within the NOAA budget those cuts actually hit is up to the agency. Despite the need for science spending ALL branches of the Federal Budget have to take some cuts. Even if we taxed the top 10% of wage earners at 100% income tax it would barely close the Deficit For One year, and still not touch the debt. Hard choices have to be made on spending and EVERY agency, every district is claiming their own part of the budget is essential.
    If we include the Social security and Medicare liabilities there simply isn’t enough money in the United states to cover it all.

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