Giovanna slides into Madagascar

By Phil Plait | February 16, 2012 10:30 am

Not to overwhelm you with pictures of weather from space, but this is too amazing to pass up: 8000 km to the southeast of that Italian snowstorm, a different storm is slamming into Madagascar. Tropical cyclone Giovanna made landfall on the east coast of the island at 06:30 GMT Monday morning.

This picture — click to encyclonate — again taken by the ESA’s Envisat, shows just how big this storm is, about 1500 km from north to south, the size of Madagascar itself. What I said about the picture of snow in Italy goes double here: the violence of this storm is transformed into terrible beauty when viewed from above. I’ll note that the satellite’s orbital height is about 800 km, a bit over half the width of the storm it’s observing.

Image credit: ESA

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Attack of the Cyclones
Hurricane Irene from start to finish
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures

Comments (16)

  1. ajb240

    Looks like it’s hitting the eastern coast or am I missing something?

  2. Jeff

    I guess this emphasizes the reversal of seasons between north/south hemisphere: north is in late winter, south in late summer, which indeed is typhoon season.

    I showed students a newspaper article dated August, 2011 that reported a huge snowstorm , rare one, in New Zealand so that was winter then. the good lord makes it complicated but interesting at the same time.

  3. Kirk Aplin

    According to my map Giovanna seems to be on the East coast of Madagascar. Am I missing something?

  4. Jeff

    #2- that was my impression. I guess in Indian Ocean the typhoons move from east to west, just like the big ones like Andrew here in south Fla. did move from cape verde to usa. If trade winds are the guiding force moving hurricanes, and I think they are a part of the story, that explains it because all trade winds in tropics are easterly winds.

  5. llewelly

    Giovanna is to the east of Madagascar.

    Tropical cyclones in the tropics are typically most strongly influenced by the trade winds, and thus usually move east to west (though other behaviors do occur, especially near Australia, where TCs are most erratic). However, they tend to drift away from the tropics, especially if they strong, and the further away from the tropics they drift, the more likely they are to be picked up by a large mid-latitude system, and recurve, turning poleward, and then off to the northeast if in the northern hemisphere, or off to the southeast if in the southern hemisphere. This is behavior is especially common in the North Atlantic. Recurvature in the South Indian ocean is rare.

    These problems started shortly after I asked to have the IP of my desktop box moved.

  6. What’s scarier are the very obvious signs of rampant deforestation on the island. I’m willing to bet all those light tan areas used to be green not that many years ago.

  7. D’oh! The storm is moving west, and I typed that instead of east. when referring to the island’s coast. I fixed it.

  8. josie

    poor lemurs and teeny chameleons :(

    I hope man and beast make it through with minimal casualties.

  9. danny

    Has the President of Madagascar responded yet?

  10. Ryan

    I hope they shut down everything

  11. Gary Ansorge

    Gee, just think, if it wasn’t for humans, there’d be no one to lament the passing of critters devastated by these storms,,,

    I like to make these points on other sites(it would be superfluous on this one) that though humans are aggressive(but not as aggressive as baboons), acquisitive( but probably not as acquisitive as your average crow. They’ll steal anything), and greedy(probably on par with other critters. Resources matter, especially in reproduction), we also feel compassion for others less enabled. I think that says a lot for humanities potential ( I guess the Little Gray Fellas were right).

    Gary 7

  12. Autumn

    kuhnigget, that was my though as well, although I believe that the deforestation has been a problem for decades.

  13. Artor

    I notice the sea seems a different color to the south. Is that an effect of the storm, or is it just a factor of depth or normal currents?

  14. @12. Autumn :

    kuhnigget, that was my thought as well, although I believe that the deforestation has been a problem for decades.

    Yep. Saw a great doco with David Attenborough a month or two ago – ‘Attenborough and the Giant Egg’ click my name for youtube trailer – and apparently Madagascar has changed quite dramatically even over a few decades – as has Attenborough himself! ūüėČ

    Wikipedia’s Madagascar page states that :

    “Since the arrival of humans around 2,350 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest. Key contributors to the loss of forest cover include the use of coffee as a cash crop, illegal logging, and slash-and-burn activities, locally called tavy. This traditional practice was imported to Madagascar by the earliest settlers and has strong cultural meaning, in addition to its practical value as an agricultural technique. Habitat destruction and hunting have threatened many of Madagascar’s endemic species or driven them to extinction. This process is exemplified by the extinction of the elephant bird, an endemic giant ratite that was once the world’s largest bird. This species, whose average height was over 3 metres (10 ft), has been extinct since at least the 17th century, most likely due to human hunting of adult birds and poaching of their large eggs for food. Numerous extinct giant lemur species also vanished with the arrival of human settlers to the island, and today most extant lemurs are listed as endangered or threatened species due to habitat destruction.”

    Ninety percent natural forest lost?! Yikes! ūüėģ

    @11. Gary Ansorge – February 16th, 2012 at 6:16 pm :

    Gee, just think, if it wasn‚Äôt for humans, there‚Äôd be no one to lament the passing of critters devastated by these storms…

    I dunno ’bout that. Elephants certainly mourn their dead. Wonder if lemurs do as well? ūüėČ

    Trivia : Apparently ring tailed lemurs purr like cats.

    Source : Sunday Mail newspaper many weeks ago – didn’t record date or page number, sorry – in one of the lift out sections.

  15. Gary Ansorge

    14. Messier Tidy Upper

    But there are very few elephants reading this blog, so I contend they’re not likely to mourn something they can’t see or know about,,,

    Gary 7

  16. Ryan H

    At first I thought this picture had something wrong with it…it took my brain a second or two to reconcile the clockwise motion of the storm with the fact that it’s in the southern hemisphere. I’m so used to seeing counterclockwise hurricanes that anything else doesn’t look real.


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