Even without a boost from El Niño, January 2017 was 3rd warmest such month in records dating back 137 years

By Tom Yulsman | February 16, 2017 9:01 pm
January 2017 temperature anomalies

A map of temperature anomalies for January 2017 shows that most of North America and Siberia were much warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. Much of the rest of Asia was also relatively warm. (Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies)

Unlike last year, January 2017 got no temperature boost from El Niño. Yet it was still remarkably warm.

In their monthly analyses, both NASA and NOAA concur that this past month was the third warmest January since record keeping began in 1880. Read More

California rivers are so swollen from runoff that the impact is easily seen in these before and after satellite images

By Tom Yulsman | February 11, 2017 6:08 pm

An animation of satellite images taken about a year apart shows a huge difference in the amount of water flowing through waterways in California’s Sacramento River Delta. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)


This animation of satellite images shows in dramatic fashion just how far California has come following one of its most devastating droughts on record.

To get the full effect, make sure to click on the animated GIF.

On Feb. 9, 2016, California was still in the grips of the drought. At that time, the waterways of the Sacramento River Delta were barely visible from space, as seen in the first image of the animation, acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite. The second image, acquired today by Terra, Aqua’s twin, shows those waterways swollen and laden with brown sediment.

Also take a look at the coastal waters. The animation reveals that a lot more sediment is flowing into the ocean than a year ago — because so much more runoff is flowing out to sea.

| Story updated 2/13/17 with this new animation:


A closer before-and-after satellite view of the Sacramento River Delta area. One image was acquired by the Aqua satellite on Feb. 8, 2016; the other on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017 by Terra, Aqua’s twin. The Sacramento River Delta is downstream of Lake Oroville, the massive reservoir to the north where severe erosion of the emergency spillway prompted evacuation of 188,000 people on February 12th. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman) |

In fact, there’s so much runoff from the huge amount of precipitation California has received in recent weeks that the Sacramento Bee is reporting thisRead More

Bye bye La Niña, we hardly knew you. (And btw, is that your baby brother, El Niño, lurking there in the shadows?)

By Tom Yulsman | February 11, 2017 4:46 pm
With La Niña's demise, just a small patch of blue indicative of cooler than average sea surface temperatures remains in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, very warm water has formed off the coast of Peru. (Source: NOAA View)

With La Niña’s demise, just a small patch of blue indicative of cooler than average sea surface temperatures remains in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, very warm water has formed off the coast of Peru. (Source: NOAA View)

The La Niña of 2016 is now officially gone. Following on from a monster El Niño, it turned out to be one of the shortest and weakest on record.

La Niña, which can influence weather across many parts of the world, is characterized by abnormally cool surface waters in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. Those have now mostly dissipated, leaving behind temperatures that are close to average for February. Forecasters expect these neutral conditions to continue for the next few months.

La Niña

This animation showing week-by-week sea surface temperature anomalies begins on Nov. 16, 2016. At the time, a spear of cooler than average surface water extended along the equator across much of the Pacific. By the week of Feb. 1, that cool pool had mostly dissipated, heralding the end of La Niña. (Source: NOAA Climate Prediction) Center

Despite its relative puniness, 2016’s La Niña did produce some typical impacts in North America. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Climate, ENSO, select, Top Posts

Extraordinary warmth continues to afflict the Arctic, taking a wicked toll on its floating cap of sea ice

By Tom Yulsman | February 9, 2017 7:28 pm

In January, average extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record

A polar bear perches on a slab of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, as photographed by Marcos Porcires aboard the research vessel Lance during the Norwegian N-ICE2015 expedition. (Source: Marcos Porcires/Norwegian Polar Institute)

A polar bear perches on a slab of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, as photographed by Marcos Porcires aboard the research vessel Lance during the Norwegian N-ICE2015 expedition. (Source: Marcos Porcires/Norwegian Polar Institute)

A journalist would never write a story saying, “No homes burned down today.” Novelty makes news, not humdrum, every day stuff.

So why another story here at ImaGeo saying that Arctic sea ice has set yet another record for lowest monthly extent since the satellite record began in 1979? After all, in addition to the low extent observed this past January, multiple record lows were also set last year — in January, February, April, May, June, October, and November.

Moreover, on a day-to-day basis, not just month-to-month, record lows are almost becoming, well, ho hum. As the National Snow and Ice Data Center puts it in their most recent update:

Record low daily Arctic ice extents continued through most of January 2017, a pattern that started last October.

Of course I’m being facetious about all of this becoming humdrum. The repetition of record lows is actually quite striking. Something really weird is going on. Read More

With the new GOES-16 satellite, Earth has never looked more stunningly beautiful from space

By Tom Yulsman | February 9, 2017 2:58 pm

GOES-16 also promises better weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, solar flare alerts, and a host of other benefits


This full-disk visible image of the Western Hemisphere was captured by NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite at 1:07 pm EST on Jan. 15, 2017 and created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the satellite’s sophisticated Advanced Baseline Imager. The image, taken from 22,300 miles above the surface, shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. (Source: NOAA)

In recent weeks, two new weather satellites — GOES-16, lofted into orbit by the United States, and the Japanese Himawari-9 — have begun sending back spectacular images of the home planet.

With GOES-16, the United States is actually playing catch-up with the Japanese, whose incredibly capable Himawari-8 satellite has been in operation since July of 2015. Himawari-9 is its twin — and is now serving as its backup. Make sure to scroll down to see some of its first images, sent back to Earth on January 24th.

Meanwhile, GOES-16 is the first in a series of four next-generation geostationary weather satellites. Launched on November 19, 2016, it began sending its first images back to Earth a couple of weeks ago. In its capabilities, it is very similar to the Himawari spacecraft.

“Meteorologists are drooling,” says atmospheric scientist and meteorologist Angela Fritz, writing in the Washington Post about the GOES-16’s first images, including the composite above showing the Western Hemisphere on Jan. 15, 2017.

You can check out a very high resolution version of the image (almost 30 megabytes) by clicking on it. Then make sure to click again to zoom in really close. The detail is simply amazing. Read More

Check out this breathtaking view of the Colorado Plateau, as seen from the International Space Station

By Tom Yulsman | February 7, 2017 9:10 pm
Colorado River

Nearly the full length of Lake Powell on the Colorado River in southern Utah and northern Arizona is visible in this photograph shot by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, on Sept. 6, 2016. The view is toward the southwest. Water flow is from the lower right toward the top. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

When I first spotted this stunning image on NASA’s Earth Observatory site, it stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s a view over Lake Powell on the Colorado River, the second-largest artificial reservoir in the United States, after Lake Mead further downstream.

Almost the entire lake is visible in this photograph, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station last September. I was really struck by the clarity, the color, and the oblique angle at which it was taken. The photograph almost looks like it was taken from an aircraft — not from orbit almost 25o miles above the surface.

Click on the image, and then click again in the lower right corner to enlarge it. You should be able to make out a white structure in one of the blue arms of the reservoir. This is the Bullfrog Marina. Are those little white specks seen in the lake near the marina houseboats? I think so.

Granted, this photo was taken with an 800 millimeter lens — as glass goes, that’s a monster! Even so. Small. Boats. Seen. From. Space…  Read More

The Arctic in the Age of Trump

By Tom Yulsman | January 23, 2017 11:54 am

“I am fearful this will affect the Arctic in ways that we have not seen yet” — Margot Wallström, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden


Donald J. Trump walks out of the U.S. Capitol to be sworn in as America’s 45th President. (Source: White House Facebook page)

Note: I’ve written this from Tromsø, Norway, where I’m covering the Arctic Frontiers conference. A version of this commentary is also scheduled to be published in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. 

On January 18, U.S. climate-monitoring agencies confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year in records dating back to 1880. And that made it a climatic trifecta:


In this map of temperature anomalies across the globe in 2016, the Arctic stands out as being the most unusually warm region on Earth during the year. (Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies)

“Remarkably, this is the third consecutive year a new global annual temperature record has been set,” the analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated.

Just two days later, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As he placed his hand on a bible for the swearing-in ceremony, the temperature in Washington, D.C. hovered at 48 degrees. That made it the 4th warmest January inauguration ever. Read More

A wimpy La Niña is on the way toward La Nada status

By Tom Yulsman | January 14, 2017 3:48 pm

La Niña typically cools the Pacific. But this time, large swathes of warmer-than-average sea temperatures have muted the cooling.

Wimpy La Niña

A comparison of sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific Ocean for two seven-day periods: Dec. 28, 1998 to Jan. 3, 1999; and Dec. 26, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2017. The strong La Niña of 1998/1999 is characterized by widespread blue colors concentrated especially along the equator west of South America. Whereas today’s Pacific is far warmer, with a wimpy La Niña characterized by only mildly cool temperatures along the equator. (Images: NOAA. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

The surface waters of the Pacific Ocean have been considerably warmer than average lately — with one exception: a small spear of coolness along the equator that’s characteristic of La Niña.

Apparently, all that warmth has prevented the current La Niña — a cool phase in the Pacific that influences weather worldwide — from gaining much strength. In fact, as La Niña’s go, this one has indeed been wimpy ever since it got going in late summer last year.

And now it is almost certainly on the way out, according to the latest analysis by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The forecast is for La Niña to fully dissipate by February, and for neutral conditions — neither La Niña nor its warm opposite, El Niño — to remain in place through the first half of the year. (There are some hints that after that a new El Niño could blossom, but it is way too soon to say.)

Our current wimpy and fading La Niña has been starkly different from a much stronger one that occurred in 1998 and 1999. You can see just how different they’ve been by watching the animation above. It depicts how sea surface temperatures varied from average in late December and early January during both episodes. Read More

A new “hole” in the Sun’s atmosphere has sparked stunning displays of the northern lights here on Earth

By Tom Yulsman | January 8, 2017 1:26 pm

As the coronal hole rotated into view of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the spacecraft captured a video of what it looked like

Data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory were used to create this view of an elongated coronal hole rotating across the face of the Sun in the first week of January 2016. (Source: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA)

Data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory were used to create this view of hole in the Sun’s corona rotating across the face of the Sun in the first week of January 2016. (Source: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA)

Ok, let’s say it straight away: A “hole” in the Sun’s corona is completely natural. It’s just one of those things that happens from time to time.

Even so, when it occurs, the results can be spectacular — on the Sun itself, as well as here on Earth.

And it just happened. Again.

The video above shows the Sun spinning on its axis and carrying an elongated coronal hole across its surface. It was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft between January 2nd and 5th.

Down here on Earth, the consequences truly were stunning, as the following time-lapse video posted to Twitter documents. (Make sure to keep reading below it for even more imagery.) Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Photography, select, Sun, Top Posts

New analysis: global sea ice suffered major losses in 2016

By Tom Yulsman | January 7, 2017 2:47 pm
sea ice

A visualization of Arctic sea ice during March of 2016. The red line marks the long-term average extent of ice. On this date, sea ice reached a record low wintertime maximum extent. It was the second straight year that a record low was set in winter — a highly unusual event. (Source: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/C. Starr)

The extent of sea ice globally took major hits during 2016, according to an analysis released yesterday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

At both poles, “a wave of new record lows were set for both daily and monthly extent,” according to the analysis.

In recent years, Arctic sea ice has been hit particularly hard.

“It has been so crazy up there, not just this autumn and winter, but it’s a repeat of last autumn and winter too,” says Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC.

In years past, abnormal warmth and record low sea ice extent tended to occur most frequently during the warmer months of the year. But for the past two years, things have gotten really weird in the colder months. Read More



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

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