And Here’s Another Astounding View of Cali’s #KingFire

By Tom Yulsman | September 19, 2014 1:24 pm

No sooner had I hit ‘Publish’ on my earlier post than I found this mind boggling photograph of California’s King Fire. It’s so dramatic that I decided to share it with you in a separate post.

I found it on Twitter while searching on #KingFire. Head over there for more compelling photos of the blaze. And for stunning satellite images, as well as an explanation of pyrocumulus clouds and information about the climate context, please see my earlier post here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, select, Top Posts, Wildfire

Stunning Satellite View of California’s Massive King Fire. With Climate Change, We Should Expect More Such Views

By Tom Yulsman | September 19, 2014 1:04 pm
King Fire

The Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument captured this view of California showing areas of burning and the smoke plume from the massive King Fire. (Source: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

California’s King Fire continues to blaze out of control in heavy timber and steep terrain in Eldorado National Forest north of the community of Pollock Pines.

The fire ignited Saturday and spread with breathtaking speed through a landscape desiccated by hot temperatures and California’s profound and record-breaking drought. So far, the King Fire has scorched more than 70,000 acres, forcing nearly 2,800 people to evacuate their homes. As of this morning, 4,425 people were participating in the battle against the blaze, which is just 10 percent contained.

A 37-year-old man from Pollock Pines has been arrested on a felony arson charge in connection with the fire.

King Fire

King Fire Pyrocumulus cloud. (Source: King Fire Facebook page.)

The false-color satellite image at the top of the post shows areas of burning and a long smoke plume. It was captured on Wednesday, September 17 by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite.

For a view from the surface, click the thumbnail at right. It shows a towering pyrocumulus cloud that blossomed above blaze. The Weather Guys at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies offer a clear explanation of this fascinating phenomenon:

The fires that generate these clouds can be man-made or natural. A big fire produces strong upward moving air currents that carry water vapor and ash upward. The water vapor can condense on the ash, forming cloud drops. The vigorous upward motions produce these pyrocumulus clouds that look similar to thunderstorm clouds, which also form due to strong upward moving air.

Here’s what the pyrocumulus clouds from the King Fire looked like from space: Read More

With Summer’s Unequalled Warmth, 2014 is Likely to Finish as the Warmest Year on Record for the Home Planet

By Tom Yulsman | September 19, 2014 11:26 am
warmest year

Towering, glacier-carved peaks loom over the sea in the Lofoten Islands near Svolvær, Norway in this iPhone photomosaic of four images captured on September 11, 2014. This part of the Arctic experienced its warmest summer on record. (Photomosaic: ©Tom Yulsman)

August and the summer of 2014 have both gone down in the books as the warmest such periods since modern record keeping began in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced.

warmest year

Lofoten Islands near Henningsvær, Norway. Please click to enlarge. (©Tom Yulsman)

And with a warmth-bringing El Niño probably emerging, the odds are very good that the rest of the year will be warmer than the long-term average — which means we’re likely on track for 2014 being declared the warmest year on record.

So you might be wondering: Why the photo above of rugged mountains rising right up from the water in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, as well as the thumbnail photo to the right from the same area? Here’s part of the reason:

warmest year

Read More

Odile: The Still-Swirling Storm That Keeps on Giving, Bringing Torrential Rains and Severe Flooding Risks

By Tom Yulsman | September 18, 2014 10:14 am

The VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite captured the visible and infrared images of Hurricane Odile that make up this animation. Odile managed to maintain hurricane intensity — with the faint signature of an eye still visible — even after the storm spent several hours crossing the rugged terrain of Baja on September 15, 2014. Now, the remnants of the storm are bringing torrential rains and flooding from Arizona to Texas. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog)

Heavy downpours from the still-swirling remnants of Hurricane Odile could bring life-threatening floods and mudslides from southeastern Arizona across southern New Mexico and into western Texas and the panhandle through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Flooding has already occurred in Arizona — just 10 days after Hurricane Norbert drenched the region, producing a record high single-day rainfall total in Phoenix. This also marks the first time in recorded history that two tropical systems have affected Arizona in such a short period of time, according to the weather service’s Tucson office.

Color infrared imagery from the GOES-East weather satellite this morning show large amounts of water vapor over the region: Read More

Postcard from Norway: the Sky Shimmers With Green Fire Following Two Gargantuan Explosions on the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | September 13, 2014 6:08 pm

The aurora borealis shimmers above the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø, Norway on September 12, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

You may have heard about the massive flares and explosions that erupted from the sun this week. These photos show what happened when the blasts hit Earth: spectacular displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

I’ve been traveling in Norway this week, and when I heard about the solar activity and the aurora forecast I borrowed a tripod from a friend here in Tromsø and raced out the door with my wife to take some photos. The images I captured show what happens when Earth’s magnetic field is bombarded by material coming from the Sun.

The photograph above shows the aurora borealis glimmering above Tromsø’s arresting Arctic Cathedral on Friday, September 12, 2014. Light from the city and the moon made the sky a bit bright, which helped to dim some of the detail in the aurora. Moreover, the sky was obscured by some cloudiness — and the clouds were light up by the streetlights below, which explains their somewhat strange coloring.


The skies above Mount Stor­stei­nen, Norway, glowed green with the northern lights on September 12th, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

Read More

Postcard from Norway’s Magical Lofoten Islands — A Biodiversity Hotspot to Rival the Amazon

By Tom Yulsman | September 8, 2014 5:34 pm
The view from the M/S Lofoten on the journey from Bodø to Svolvaer in Norway, Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo: © Tom Yulsman)

The view from the M/S Lofoten on the journey from Bodø to Svolvaer in Norway, Sept. 8, 2014. Please click to enlarge. (Photo: © Tom Yulsman)

Greetings from Norway’s spectacular Lofoten Islands, one of the crown jewels of our planet’s biodiversity: an environment above the Arctic Circle where coral reefs actually thrive, seabirds by the millions roost, and Orcas, humpbacks, and sperm wales — not to mention humans — feast on teeming stocks of fish.

This biodiversity has been described as an Arctic Amazon rainforest and Great Barrier Reef all in one.

I’m here to help lead a field trip that’s part of a climate change communication course organized by a colleague at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. I’ll have more to say about this special place in coming days. In the meantime, I thought I’d post this ImaGeo postcard.

I photographed the scene up top as our Hurtigruten ship, the M/S Lofoten, was steaming out into Vestfjorden, a wide bight of water separating the Lofoten archipelago from the Salten district of Norway. (For a map, click here.) Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Arctic, Environment, Nature, Ocean, select, Top Posts

A New ImaGeo Feature: Every Day Wonders

By Tom Yulsman | September 2, 2014 12:17 pm

A cumulus cloud blossoms over corn fields near Niwot, Colorado on August 31, 2014, as seen in this iPhone photo-mosaic. (Photo: © Tom Yulsman)

Whether it’s an iPhone in my pocket or something more sophisticated hanging around my neck, I’m rarely without a camera. So I find myself shooting photos pretty much daily. The subjects vary, but often they fall into a category I would describe as “every day wonders.”

From a monsoon cloud blossoming over the mountains and moving out onto the plains, as in the image above, to a spider snacking on a tasty wasp (stay tuned for a photo of that), these events are quite common. But in our busy lives, we’re often only dimly aware of them, if at all.

That’s why I’m launching a new, semi-regular feature here at ImaGeo: “Every Day Wonders.” In it, I’ll feature photographs of aspects of nature that have stopped me in my tracks and triggered a sense of awe. For the most part, these images won’t be of unusual things (although I’m sure there will be some of that), but rather of things around us all the time that often escape our consciousness.

The photographs I showcase here won’t necessarily be straightforward representations of what I saw. What I imagine when I gaze up at a thunderhead blossoming over a corn field isn’t necessarily what the raw photographic data collected by my camera look like. Those data comprise just the starting point for a creative process that results in a true photograph, as opposed to a mere snapshot.

In his autobiography, Ansel Adams put it this way: Read More

Cristobal Whirls Toward Iceland

By Tom Yulsman | September 1, 2014 12:25 am

Formerly a hurricane, Cristobal takes aim on Iceland in this image captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. (Source: NASA)

As I’m writing this on Sunday night (Aug. 31), the cyclone formerly known as Hurricane Cristobal is taking dead aim on Iceland.

You can see it whirling off Iceland’s coast in the image above, captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Saturday. No longer a hurricane, it is, in the parlance of meteorology, an “extra-tropical cyclone” — a whirling dervish of a storm that has moved far north from its origins in the tropics.

To get even more technical, Cristobal may be what’s known as a “warm seclusion cyclone,” meaning a core of unusually warm and moist air at its center is encircled by colder air, causing that core to be “secluded.”

The remnants of Cristobal will likely bring high winds and lots of rain to Iceland on Sunday.

Getting Droned On Greenland’s Ice Sheet

By Tom Yulsman | August 30, 2014 12:54 pm

If you’re as fascinated by the science of our planet as I am, you’ve probably seen all sorts of imagery of the world’s frozen places, including dramatic photos of summer meltwater coursing across the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

And now, for a new and thoroughly spectacular perspective, check out the video above. Shot from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — more commonly known these days as a drone — it shows ephemeral rivers of meltwater pouring into shafts, called moulins, in the ice sheet.

It’s part of a project, called the Dark Snow Project, managed by Jason Box of the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Box and his colleagues are studying the impact of soot from wildfires and industry, and snow microbes as well, on the reflectivity of snow and ice in Greenland.

If that sounds esoteric, consider that darkening of snow and ice can lead to increased melting. This happens because dark snow and ice are less reflective, which means they absorb more solar energy.

And make no mistake about it: As the climate has warmed, large portions of Greenland have been experiencing accelerated melt: Read More

Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly Let’s Fly Away…

By Tom Yulsman | August 22, 2014 12:36 pm

My friend and colleague Andrew Revkin found this wonderful video on the National Weather Service New York Facebook page and posted it to DotEarth, his N.Y. Times blog, this morning. It’s so impossibly cool I just had to share it with you too.

As rain showers disperse, there is an outward explosion visible in the radar loop  — apparently the signature of many thousands of insect-eating tree swallows taking off from their roosts along the Connecticut River at dawn today. As they fly away, they create a massive, expanding, flapping cloud that looks like rain showers on the radar. Andy has posted links to additional information about the birds at DotEarth, so check that out if you’re interested.

These birds aren’t the only winged creatures to have shown up on radar. Read More


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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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