With no La Niña to help cool Earth’s fever, last month shattered the mark for warmest August on record

By Tom Yulsman | September 13, 2016 11:20 am
August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping. This continues a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set monthly high-temperature records. (Source: NASA GISS)

August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping. This continues a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set monthly high-temperature records. (Source: NASA GISS)

The heat goes on. And on.

According to data released yesterday by NASA, last month was the warmest August on record. That makes it 11 straight months of record-breaking global heat.

Warmest August

Map of August 2016 temperature anomalies. (Source: NASA GISS

And as it turned out, August tied with July 2016 for warmest of 1,640 months now on record, NASA said. This despite the fact that the seasonal temperature cycle usually tops out in July.

SEE ALSO: This past July was the hottest of 1,639 months on record

Last month was 0.98 degrees Celsius, or 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than the mean August temperature for 1951-1980.  It beat out August 2014, the previous record holder for warmest August, which was 0.82 degrees Celsius above average.

With the continuing global heat, 2016 is almost certain to top 2015 as warmest year on record, according to Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies:  Read More

This past July was the hottest of 1,639 months on record

By Tom Yulsman | August 18, 2016 9:37 pm

July 2016 also was the 379th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average


Even though the El Niño warming episode is over, Earth’s heat streak is continuing. Big time.

Both NASA and NOAA have released their verdicts for global temperatures in July (NASA’s here, and NOAA’s here). And both concur that it was the hottest such month on record.

Since July is typically the warmest month of the year globally, that means it was the hottest of all 1,639 months on record.

Let us count other ways in which July 2016 was noteworthy: Read More

As a giant cruise ship prepares to set sail, the fabled — and treacherous — Northwest Passage is nearly ice free

By Tom Yulsman | August 12, 2016 6:21 pm

The 1,070 passengers scheduled to sail aboard the Crystal Serenity have global warming to thank for shrinking Arctic sea ice

Crystal Serenity

On August 9, 2016, the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image centered on Canada featuring a nearly ice-free Northwest Passage. (Image: NOAA. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

The largest cruise ship ever to attempt a complete transit of the usually ice-choked waters of the famed Northwest Passage is just days away from weighing anchor.

And at least for now, it looks like the coast is almost clear for the Crystal Serenity with its 1,070 passengers and 655 crew members. As of Aug. 11, 2016, sea ice is nearly gone from the southern route of the passage, according to NOAA.

Crystal Serenity

Click to enlarge.

The animation at the top of this post shows the mostly ice-free route, as seen by the Suomi NPP satellite on August 9th. Have a look to get your bearings, then click on the thumbnail at right to see the full-sized, unannotated version. (Click it again to zoom in so you can explore the route I’ve marked in the animation.)

Sea ice has long stymied mariners from completing the journey across the treacherous northernmost reaches of North America. The first documented full transit of the Northwest Passage was made by Roald Amundsen in a small, wooden boat between 1903 and 1906. Since then, his journey has been repeated fewer than 240 times. Read More

Prominent global warming doubter says there was a “hit list” apparently targeting climate scientists

By Tom Yulsman | August 8, 2016 11:10 am
hit list

Patrick Michaels, Director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. (Photo courtesy Cato Institute)

In a comment on an August 3rd post at the Wattsupwiththat website, Patrick J. Michaels of the conservative Cato Institute said that there has been a “hit list” apparently targeting climate scientists, and that he had influence over who was on it.

At this point, it is unclear exactly what this list was about. But from what Michaels said, it looks like it consisted of scientists being targeted for termination from their jobs.

|Note: See the update below about an effort by ExxonMobil in 2001 to get the Bush Administration to oust Robert T. Watson as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change |

Considering the salience of global warming in the presidential election, and the unsettling nature of these comments, I decided to depart from my usual coverage of the science of our planet here at ImaGeo and try to shine a light on this.

Michaels, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, and current Director of Cato’s Center for the Study of Science, is one of the most highly quoted doubters of mainstream science on climate change.

The Wattsupwiththat post to which Michaels responded concerned an announcement that Thomas Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information, was retiring. NCEI is the part of NOAA that releases monthly updates on the global climate.

The post by Anthony Watts at the Wattsupwiththat website did little more than reproduce a copy of the press release announcing Karl’s retirement. Then, on Aug. 4th, Michaels wrote his response in the comments section of the post. Rhetorically addressing Karl, Michaels said:

I saved your job in 2000. You were on a hit list and I had you taken off because I thought you were a straight shooter. Seven months later what is detailed above happened.

Read More

First, a big chunk of the Sun seemingly goes missing; then a satellite sees a Sun-grazing comet plunge to its death

By Tom Yulsman | August 7, 2016 1:56 pm

All the action was captured live and in color by spacecraft. Here’s what it looked like — and what’s going on.


What took a huge bite out of the Sun? (Source: NASA, ESA and JAXA)

Check out the image above, acquired by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. It almost seems like something took a big bite out of the Sun, right?

And if that weren’t enough, here’s what happened a day later:


This screenshot from an animation of images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft (SOHO) shows a comet zooming toward the sun on Aug. 3rd and 4th, 2016. Click the image to watch the animation on Youtube.  (Source: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

That bright streaking object is a comet plunging toward the Sun at nearly 1.3 million miles per hour before getting torn to shreds and vaporized, as witnessed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO spacecraft.

Meanwhile, at the same time the comet was on its death plunge, the Sun belched, letting loose a gargantuan eruption of hyper-hot plasma into space. You can see it in the video — it’s that bolus of bright white stuff spewing out on the left. (Not to worry. It wasn’t directed toward us on Earth…)

SEE ALSO: What’s up with that huge dark hole in the Sun?

Quite an interesting couple of days in the neighborhood of the Sun, eh?

First, let’s deal with the chunk of the Sun that seemed to go missing.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Comets, select, Sun, Top Posts

Seen from space: eight days of a blazing California wildfire

By Tom Yulsman | July 30, 2016 8:04 pm

The Soberanes Fire has scorched an area twice as large as Manhattan. Watch nearly its full duration so far in this animation of satellite images.

Soberanes Fire

Click this screenshot to watch an animation of GOES-West weather satellite images showing the blazing Soberanes Fire between July 22, 2016, when it started, and July 30th. (Source: RAMMB)

Since it started on July 22, the Soberanes Fire along California’s Big Sur coast has scorched at least 33,668 acres — an area nearly two and third times the size of Manhattan. Along the way it has destroyed 68 structures and resulted in the death of one bulldozer operator.

More than 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, equipped with 511 fire engines, 40 water tenders, 14 helicopters, six air tankers, and 67 bulldozers.

And after eight days, the Soberanes Fire is still just 15 percent contained. (For the latest on the fire, check out updates from the Incident Information System here.)

I decided to put together an animation of weather satellite images showing nearly the entire duration of the fire, from the morning of July 22 until today. The images come from the GOES-West satellite, which circles the Earth in geostationary orbit. Look at the annotated screenshot up top to get your bearings, then click it to watch it on Youtube. Read More

Atlantic hurricanes: Is the calm before the storms ending?

By Tom Yulsman | July 29, 2016 8:57 pm

High sea surface temperatures fuel hurricanes — and right now, the tank is brimming. When will the season really get rolling?

Atlantic hurricanes

An infrared view of Africa acquired by the Meteosat satellite on July 29, 2016, reveals two disturbances in the Atlantic, plus new wave disturbances potentially brewing up over Africa. (Source: NOAA)

There are no Atlantic hurricanes on the eastern horizon just yet, but far across the sea from the United States, something is definitely beginning to stir.

More and more weather disturbances are arising over Africa, and propagating westward into the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

“As anticipated, we are seeing a bit more activity appear now over the tropical [Atlantic] basin,” writes forecaster Steve Gregory at Weather Underground.

With very warm sea surface temperatures serving as potent fuel, sooner or later one of these so-called ‘tropical wave disturbances’ should form into a tropical storm and then spin up into a full-blown hurricane. Given that we are just now heading into peak season for Atlantic hurricanes, the overall odds of that happening are increasing by the day.

Have a look at the infrared satellite image above. I’ve circled two disturbances that are now moving westward across the Atlantic. These were born in Africa in the region I’ve circled — where still more wave disturbances are brewing up during the monsoon season there.

Keep reading to find out more about the two disturbances in the Atlantic and what risks they might pose. But first, a little context for what’s going on: Read More

Close-up videos capture big, beautiful explosion on the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | July 25, 2016 5:45 pm

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this view of a solar flare and coronal mass ejection, or CME, on July 23, 2016. Click to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: NASA, ESA and JAXA. Images and movies created using the ESA and NASA funded Helioviewer Project: http://helioviewer.org/)

A buildup of intensely tangled magnetic energy on the Sun suddenly let go two days ago, unleashing a massive explosion of radiation and super-hot plasma.

The radiation explosion was the most powerful solar flare of 2016 so far.

You can watch all the action close up in the video above, based on data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, or SDO.

When the video starts, keep your eye on the bright active region toward the middle of the frame. It’s seething with energy. Above and around it, glowing, electrified plasma flows along curved lines of magnetic field, creating huge structures known as coronal loops.

And then there is an extremely intense bright flash — the solar flare. This is a sudden blast of radiation traveling at the speed of light.

The flare is accompanied by a titanic splurt (technical term) of solar material called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.

An analogy (albeit imperfect) is a blast from a cannon. The bright flash from the muzzle is akin to the solar flare, and the artillery shell exploding out of the barrel of the cannon is like the CME.

Here’s a view in the extreme ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum (94 Angstroms): Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics, select, Solar System, Sun, Top Posts

The Sand Fire near L.A. has doubled in size, and with dry, gusty winds, extreme fire behavior is forecast today

By Tom Yulsman | July 24, 2016 1:29 pm

Sand Fire

With temperatures up to 97 degrees, humidity down at just 10 percent, and winds gusting as high as 30 miles per hour, the weather forecast today is not what firefighters battling the Sand Fire near Los Angeles might have hoped for.

As the graphic above from the National Weather Service in L.A. shows, extremely dangerous fire behavior is in the offing today.

SEE ALSO: Amazing time-lapse video of the Sand Fire now blazing in northern Los Angeles County

Make sure to click on the link above to watch one of the most amazing time-lapse animations I’ve ever seen. It shows the Sand Fire blazing at night in the hills outside of Santa Clarita.

Sand Fire

Map of the Sand Fire, as of Sunday morning, July 24, 2016. (Source: InciWeb)

The fire has doubled in size to 22,000 acres over the past 24 hours, and it is just 10 percent contained, according to the Incident Information System (InciWeb). More than 1,673 firefighters are battling the blaze. Their resources include 122 fire engines, 15 helicopters and eight bulldozers. (For a map of the blaze as of Sunday morning, click on the thumbnail image at right.)

Fifteen homes have been evacuated. Unfortunately, 18 have been destroyed so far. There is also a report of a scorched body of a deceased man being found in a car sitting in the driveway of a home in Santa Clarita. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Here’s what the fire looked like from space yesterday, as viewed by the GOES-West weather satellite: Read More

Satellite images capture California’s Sand Fire, blazing north of Los Angeles, and the Sobranes Fire near the Big Sur coast

By Tom Yulsman | July 23, 2016 9:50 pm
Sand Fire

An animation of natural and false-color images acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite on Saturday reveal different aspects of the Sand Fire burning north of Los Angels. The natural-color image shows a towering smoke plume from the fire. In the false-color image, orange tones show areas of active burning. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

Update: As of Sunday morning, 7/24, the Sand Fire north of Los Angeles has scorched approximately 22,000 acres, a doubling in size since yesterday; it is just 10 percent contained. The Soberanes Fire on the California coast near Carmel has grown to 10,262 acres, up from 6,500 acres yesterday. It’s just 5 percent contained.

Hot, dry and windy weather is fanning the flames of two California wildfires this evening, one just north of Los Angeles and the other near Carmel.

The Sand Fire north of Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita area, seen in the animation above, has consumed at least 11,000 acres. That number will almost certainly grow in the coming hours.

Earlier today I posted an astonishing timelaspe video of the Sand Fire, shot last night by Mo Sabawi. Check it out here:

Amazing time-lapse video of the Sand Fire now blazing in northern Los Angeles County

Nearly a thousand people, 70 fire engines, nine helicopters, 36 hand crews, and five bulldozers, have been laboring in high temperatures to try to contain that blaze, which as I’m writing this on Saturday evening (July 23) is only 10 percent contained, according to the most recent report from InciWeb. 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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