Over the past few days, huge storms have exploded over the US midwest. The GOES 13 geostationary weather satellite had a birds-eye view of the whole thing, and its images were used to make animation showing five days of meteorological action:
Wow. It’s positively creepy how those cells burst into life with what looks like no trigger or precursor. They’re just suddenly there. Terrifying.
I was in Kansas over the weekend for my nephew’s college graduation (congrats Derek!), and literally minutes before the ceremony was to start there was a tornado warning. We had to huddle in the building’s basement for about 45 minutes before the all-clear was sounded; the tornado spotted was to the northwest and missed us (although right as the warning started I was able to get a picture of the weird rolling mammatus clouds overhead).
After the ceremony we saw the storm raging to the north of us, and I got this photo of it:
That’s a several second exposure at (I think) f/8. The lightning was never more than 5 – 10 seconds away for quite some time. It was awe-inspiring.
The next day we left Lawrence to come home, and a fierce black cloud stretched from horizon to horizon to our west. It missed us, and by the time we got on the road it was gone… but I have to wonder if that was the same storm system that produced the tornado that swept through Joplin, Missouri. I’ve never seen an actual tornado in real life, but that’s as close as I ever want to come.
If you want to help folks whose lives have been affected by these storms, The Nation has a list of charities and other organizations helping out in Missouri.
Video credit: Movie Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters
The other day I posted a video showing GOES space imagery of the severe storms that blasted across the United States on April 27. NASA has other satellites that observe the Earth as well, including Aqua, which captured the image below of the aftermath of the storms. The picture is centered on Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and you can clearly see the tracks in the ground left by the killer tornadoes that swept through the state.
The videos people took of the tornadoes are absolutely terrifying. The Red Cross was in the area immediately after the storms went through; if you have a mind to, they are as always accepting donations.
Images like this help meteorologists track down and understand the conditions for such storms to form. Obviously, the better we understand those conditions the more prepared we can be. And the farther in advance we can predict these storms — even by minutes — the more lives we can save.
Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC.
On April 27, 2011, huge storms spawned enormous tornadoes which swept across the southeastern U.S., doing severe damage and killing over 200 people. It was the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The NASA/NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES, takes high-resolution images every few minutes. The animation below shows the southeast U.S. from GOES, and you can watch the storms erupt.
A warm, moist air mass from the south collided with a cold air mass over the States. This is how summer storms usually form, but this situation was amplified by the jet stream, which was blowing between them. This generated fierce local systems that spawned over 150 tornadoes in the course of a single day.
It’s unclear but unlikely this particular event was due to global warming, but many models indicate such storms will increase in number as the planet warms. Despite a lot of political noise, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is indeed real. We may see more storms like this in the future.
NOAA/NASA, GOES Project Science team. Original animation by Jesse Allen.