Something seems to be stirring in the western Pacific — a quickening that may herald the birth of El Niño.
Should it actually happen, weather conditions in many places around the globe could be affected starting in the fall, including the possibility of wetter conditions for drought-plagued California, as well as a warmer globe overall.
I put together the video above to help show in visual terms what’s going on — and why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday issued an El Niño watch, saying there is a 50 percent chance that one will develop this summer or fall.
El Niño, meaning “the Little Boy” or “Christ Child” in Spanish, is one half of what’s known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle. It is characterized by a periodic warming of the sea surface across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
For the past year and a half, near-neutral conditions have prevailed in the Pacific, meaning that neither an El Niño nor it’s opposite, a La Niña, has been present. But as the video above shows, westerly winds have been picking up in parts of the western Pacific Ocean region, something that could signal the birth of El Niño.
When neutral conditions are present in the Pacific, trade winds blow from east to west in the equatorial region. This tends to enhance upwelling of cold, deep water off the coast South America. These chilly waters spread toward the west, moderating sea surface temperatures. Meanwhile, strong trade winds corral warm surface waters on the western side of the ocean.
But when anomalous westerly winds start to kick up north of New Guinea, things can begin to change by helping to weaken the trade winds and thereby set the stage for warm water to spread toward the South American side of the Pacific. Starting in January, and continuing into February and March, westerly winds have indeed begun to kick up. And earlier this month, a tropical storm helped enhance this pattern.
And something else seems to be happening too. Read More
It’s not every day that astronomers get to witness an asteroid crumbling into a bunch of glowing chunks hurtling through space.
In fact, it has never been wintessed before — until now.
Scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency announced today that the Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the fragmentation of an asteroid, designated P/2013 R2, into 10 separate chunks, each with its own glowing comet-like dust tail. The four largest chunks are about 400 meters in diameter, which is more than four football fields wide.
“This is a really bizarre thing to observe — we’ve never seen anything like it before, ”said co-author Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany, quoted in a NASA/ESA press release about the discovery.
The video above shows a sequence of Hubble observations of the asteroid over a little more than two months in late 2013 into January. (The sequence plays several times.) The fragments move around with respect to each other, and new chunks seem to break off.
How did it happen? Read More
The satellite image above shows the powerful storm that brought gale force winds and 36 hours of heavy rainfall to New Zealand, triggering what has been described as a 100-year flood in the city of Christchurch.
The city has been beset by flooding before, as well as a devastating magnitude 6.3 earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 people.
— Lacey Wilson (@Lacey_Wilson) March 4, 2014
As Russian forces have taken complete control of the Crimean Peninsula, little action to counter this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty seems forthcoming from the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At least for now.
As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:
European heavyweights like Germany and France appeared to rule out any moves that might lead to a widening confrontation with Russia, such as military action or even economic sanctions.
Even a boycott of the upcoming Group of Eight summit in Sochi, site of the recent Olympics, doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Why the reticence to take even mild steps to counter Vladimir Putin’s invasion of a sovereign nation? Several factors are at work, including Russia’s integration with Western economies.
And if you want to understand that particular fact on the ground, you should follow the carbon.
Start with the image above. Captured by the Suomi NPP satellite, it shows Eurasia at night. In addition to city lights, you can see the bright glow generated by flaring natural gas in the vast Siberian oil and gas fields. (In the circled areas.)
Here’s a close up view of Russian energy development in Siberia acquired during the day by the Landsat satellite: Read More
As I’m putting this post together, Ukraine has put its military on high alert, and Russian troops along with other forces have surrounded a number of Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula — home to Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet.
Just a week after the end of the Sochi Olympics, the Russians have invaded Ukraine, and so there is now a risk of war in Europe. Hard to believe.
This isn’t a typical kind of topic for ImaGeo, but I thought I’d approach it by providing some remote sensing imagery of the region, and particularly Sevastopol, which has obvious military importance to the Russians, who have a long-term lease from Ukraine on their naval base there.
In the image above, you can see multiple ships docked in the harbor — many of them Russian naval vessels. How strong is the force there?
Here’s how Mark Galeotti, author of “Russian Security and Paramilitary Forces Since 1991,” and a professor at New York University, answered this question in a Q&A with the Washington Post: Read More
Check out this incredible photo of the snow squall just north of Toronto taken from the CTV Toronto chopper pic.twitter.com/z37h7mJ5Go
— CTV Toronto (@CTVToronto) February 27, 2014
I was planning to pack it up early today until I saw this amazing Twitpic on Mashable.
Perhaps you’ve heard of haboobs, intense dust and sand storms that can reach 10,000 feet high. Not uncommon in Phoenix during the monsoon season there, they look like a giant brown wall as they approach. But have you ever imagined a ‘snowboob’?
It turns out that snow squalls can take on the same appearance as haboobs. The wall of snow in the image above enveloped Toronto and other parts of Southern Ontario yesterday (Feb. 27).
Here’s another view: Read More
As I write this, California is being lashed by rain and wind from a storm bringing much needed moisture — but which also threatens to cause some havoc in the form of mudslides and flooding.
Here’s how the National Weather Service in Los Angeles described it in their forecast discussion this morning:
A VIGOROUS WINTER STORM WILL AFFECT THE AREA THROUGH SATURDAY. EXPECT RAIN...MOUNTAIN SNOW...GUSTY WINDS... POSSIBLE THUNDERSTORMS...WATERSPOUTS...URBAN FLOODING...AND MUD AND DEBRIS FLOWS NEAR RESENT BURN AREAS. RAINFALL WILL BE INTENSE AT TIMES. A CLEARING AND DRYING TREND WILL START SUNDAY AFTERNOON. CLEAR WITH A WARMING TREND FOR EARLY NEXT WEEK.
In the gallery above, you won’t see any of those. These images are various satellite views of the swirling cyclone that is bringing both relief and risk to California today and through tomorrow.
Baby, it’s cold outside — again, especially for residents of the Upper Midwest who’ve been beset with repeated Arctic blasts this winter.
But as in previous episodes, that’s only part of the story, as the graphic above illustrates. It shows the forecast departure from normal temperature over the Northern Hemisphere. Notice that while the eastern half of the United States is shivering, large parts of the higher latitudes are considerably warmer than normal. Read More
Twisted magnetic fields on the Sun suddenly released on Monday, causing a massive flare of radiation that hurled a giant loop of plasma many times larger than the Earth out into space.
This x-class flare was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. The video above shows SDO’s view in different wavelengths of light.
X-class solar flares are the biggest. This one was the strongest one yet observed this year, and one of the biggest during the current solar cycle.
Here are six still images showing the start of the event in different wavelengths: Read More
A near vertical wall on Alaska’s 10,728-foot Mt. La Perouse collapsed on Feb. 16, sending 68 million metric tons of material thundering downhill.
This would make it the largest known landslide on Earth since 2010, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.