Hurricane Irene from start to finish

By Phil Plait | August 30, 2011 2:46 pm

NASA just released an amazing video showing Hurricane Irene from August 21th through the 29th — essentially the entire lifespan of the storm:

Unfortunately the resolution isn’t great, but this really gives a sense of the incredible size and momentum of this incredible storm. The animation was created using images from the NASA/NOAA satellite GOES-13, an Earth-observer in geostationary orbit 36,000 km (22,000 miles) above the Atlantic Ocean. It takes images of clouds, which were combined with MODIS images of the land to get this realistic-looking view.

Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Related posts:

Irene sidles up to the east coast
Putting the eye in Irene
Come on, Irene


Comments (17)

  1. Blake

    Why are these videos just as glitchychoppycrappy as I remember them being in my childhood in the 80s? GOES 13 is a brand new satellite. Are downlinks really THAT bad still in an era of streaming digital satellite radio and HDTV?

    On second thought maybe I should lower my expectations since the National Hurricane Center’s website, actually the entire NOAA site now that I look again, has been down since last week. That’s some good work, boys.

  2. FlyingPaper

    We were so lucky that other system pushing across its Northern flank helped to disrupt its circulation. If it hadn’t sheared off the top of it we’d have had to deal with the following circulation which would have been brutal. Instead we just got the top part of it and then had a beautiful Sunday with winds, dry air and cool.

    Of course, it got sheared off and crippled upstate NY and other Northern states with terrible rains, but at least the general Tri-State area was spared the brunt of it.

    Now, of course, we have to worry about this mildly scary sister of her’s:

    On a side note: thank goodness for NOAA. Without it we’d have to actually listen to the nonsense put out by the Weather Channel, scaring the bejesus out of people when they had nothing better to do while desensitizing their viewers. Bad.

  3. Tim

    What causes that sliding white haze effect ? Is that a thin layer of cloud fluctuating with the day/night cycle or is it some artefact from the imaging system of the satellite ?

  4. Jeremy

    Awesome. I’m a huge junky of the Jeff Masters hurricane blog, and I’ve been waiting 5 years to see an animation like this. It is particularly cool watching the dense thunderstorm spiral into the center of the storm while the wispy upper level outflow spirals outward. Lots of cool physics in there. I hope NASA releases more of these (although it would be be more fun if we were watching a storm in the mid-Atlantic rather than one ravaging the coast).

  5. Andy

    I’d also like to know why there are always frames missing in these animations.

  6. @Andy – My first impulse was to write: “Clearly to hide the fleet of UFOs that Barack Obama was using the shepherd the storm up the East Coast for his own nefarious purposes.” But then I felt Poe’s Law breathing down my neck and decided otherwise….

  7. ajm

    @3 – I think the sliding white haze effect is the day/night terminator, purely as a sensing artifact rather than any actual physical cloud effect. These images appear to show the clouds as sensed by GOES, in a combination of the visible and infrared channels, overlaid on the blue marble type imagery. The visible/IR images are processed in some way to make the cloud grey scale roughly equivalent so the switch between day/night is as seamless as possible – the clouds come from the IR data when those pixels are in “night”, and the clouds come from the visible data when those pixels are in “day” conditions. The high clouds will usually map to the same grey level (meaning, almost pure white), but the low clouds will tend to look darker (greyer), or even not detectable at all in the IR, while still being fairly bright in the visible. I’m not 100% sure this explanation is accurate but it makes sense to be when comparing what is seen in these color animations versus the more raw single channel GOES images.

    @1/@5 – the images are not choppy due to any down link issue but rather because of the way the GOES imager/sounder collects data. You can think of it like a raster scanner that moves over the full earth disk, one “line” at a time. It does faster repeat rate scans over regions of interest (like hurricanes). So, my guess would be the “lurch” in the Irene video is due to a halt in the scanning over Irene while the sensor is working on the full disk scan, or perhaps a different region of interest. If you go to, and look at one of the “most recent global overview” movies, you will get an idea of what I am talking about; you should see a rectangle that sort of jumps around the globe. That’s showing you how the scanning is done over different parts over the globe at different repeat rates.

  8. Thopter

    Re: the choppiness and the “white haze”… I think the choppiness comes from lack of nighttime imagery, since, ya know, it’s dark, and the “white haze” is glare from the sun reflecting off the water and cloud tops.

  9. Hey Phil,

    Thought you might like to know that my rendition of the recent Cassini flyby of Hyperion is now available to view on YouTube:

    Hope you like it!

  10. DLC

    No need to worry about those storm videos, or those stormwatcher flights. There’s not going to be many more of them. Our Republican friends in Congress will be making sure of that. And of rolling back everything since Teddy Roosevelt.

  11. “I’d also like to know why there are always frames missing in these animations.”

    Those are the frames where the UFO flies by in its orbit, the one that the US Gub’mint is keeping sekret all these years

  12. FlyingPaper@2: I don’t think Katia is going to be a problem. It’s a similar track as Irene, true, but far enough to the north that the chances of landfall at all are greatly diminished.


    You can see Irene’s course was nearly on top of Puerto Rico and then through the Bahamas before hugging the East Coast. Katia, on the other hand, does not look like it will affect either of those areas. Bermuda might be in trouble, but not the Antilles or Bahamas.

  13. Blake

    Aaaaah, thanks ajm. I assumed it was a simple focal plane imager. Eventually lead me to this page for more detailed information, for anyone else interested:

    Thanks again.

  14. Tim

    Hurricane? You mean that tropical storm we had.

  15. fifi

    why did it start???


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