Dramatic Growth of Australian Bushfire as Seen from Space

By Tom Yulsman | November 21, 2014 3:02 pm
Australian Bushfire

An animation of images acquired by NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites shows the growth of an Australian bushfire in the state of Queensland between Oct. 13 and Nov. 21, 2014. (Source: NASA)

Much of the United States may have been shivering over the past week or so, with poor Buffalonians worried that their roofs might collapse under staggering amounts of snow. But on the other side of the Earth, Australians have had a far different experience.

For Australia, it was the second warmest October on record. (Globally, two separate reports place October as either the warmest or in a tie for warmest.) That got me wondering what the wildfire situation has been Down Under. So I fired up NASA’s awesome interactive Worldview website to see what I could spot on satellite imagery. The animated gif above is the result of my searching.

You’re looking at a series of images acquired by NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites between Oct. 13 and today (Nov. 21). The Australian bushfire is near Staaten River National Park in the state of Queensland. Read More

Stunning New Satellite Image of Brutal Lake Effect Snow

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 8:19 pm

A GOES weather satellite captured this image of Lake effect snow streaming across and downwind of the Great Lakes on Nov. 18, 2014. In the upper left corner is Lake Superior. Below it is Lake Michigan. To the east is Lake Huron and below it Lake Erie — source of the snow pummeling the Buffalo area. And then north and east of Lake Erie is Lake Ontario. (Source: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

For Buffalonians and others in the Great Lakes region, the snow just keeps on coming. And coming, and coming, and…

Yesterday, some suburban areas of Buffalo got 60 inches or more, prompting the National Weather Service to Tweet that the area may have set a record for “highest 24hr snow in a populated area.” Time will tell whether that’s ultimately confirmed.

Regardless, another round is on the way, with an additional two to three feet forecast for Wednesday through Friday morning. And that’s just in the Buffalo area. The National Weather Service has also issued a lake effect snow warning for counties east of Lake Ontario, with two feet forecast there.

Yesterday, I posted a satellite image of a lake effect snow band over Lake Erie. Today, NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Laboratory published the stunning image above of a broader region of the Great Lakes. It was captured by a GOES weather satellite.

Note the long cloud streamers moving across and downwind of all of the lakes.

A screenshot of a video captured Wednesday by a drone in West Seneca, N.Y., near Buffalo. Click on the image to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: James Grimaldi Youtube channel.)

A screenshot of a video captured Wednesday by a drone in West Seneca, N.Y., near Buffalo. Click on the image to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: James Grimaldi Youtube channel.)

I also spotted a spectacular video on the Washington Post’s Capitol Weather Gang blog and thought I’d share it with you.

Above is a screenshot from the video, which was captured by James Grimaldi using a drone flying over his neighborhood in West Seneca, N.Y. near Buffalo — which has been particularly hard hit. Read More

Totally Insane! Buffalo Suburbs May Have Set a Record for 24-Hour Snowfall in a Populated Area

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 2:03 am

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of clouds streaming across Lake Erie toward Buffalo and Erie County, New York on Tuesday— where they dumped gargantuan amounts of snow. (Source: NASA)

The national record for snowfall in a 24-hour period is 76 inches, up in the mountains of Colorado. Some suburbs of Buffalo approached that amount on Tuesday — “possibly the highest 24hr snow in a populated area,” the National Weather Service Tweeted late Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, four people have lost their lives as a result of the snow.

And it’s not over yet! As I’m writing this early Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service is forecasting more snow well into the day — and then even more through Thursday night:



It has been a classic lake effect snowfall — but on steroids this time.

Read More

Both Beautiful and Disturbing, a New NASA Visualization Shows Carbon Dioxide Emissions Swirling Around the World

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 12:07 am

The following is a guest post from Paul McDivitt, a second-year master’s student studying journalism and mass communication research at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He is taking a course in journalistic blogging from me there. This is his second post at Discover. His first was at Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-Scape blog. Follow Paul on twitter @paulmcdivitt.

In the wake of an historic agreement between the United States and China to curb greenhouse gas emissions, a new visualization from NASA shows just how important these two nations are in combating climate change.

Courtesy of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the visualization — produced by an ultra-high-resolution computer model and spanning May 2005 to June 2007 — shows weather patterns sweeping plumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, major sources of human-caused emissions are concentrated in North America and Asia, especially China, as well as Europe.

Before the industrial revolution, the global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stood at about 270 parts per million. In the visualization, dark blue shows concentrations of 375 parts per million (ppm). Red is indicative of 385 ppm, and light purple 395 ppm.

“I think we all think of CO2 as a well mixed gas within the atmosphere providing a rather uniform blanket across the globe,” said Bill Putman, lead scientist on the project and a research meteorologist at NASA. “This visualization really emphasizes the local distribution of the gas, the regional influences where the gas is trapped in a particular region like China due to its high emissions and also the great barriers in the large-scale atmospheric flow that are the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau that prevent weather systems from dropping into China and mixing the gas.”

In this view, you can see a closeup of emissions from China, a still-growing industrial powerhouse:

Read More

October in a Tie As Warmest on Record. But What About that Global Warming Hiatus?

By Tom Yulsman | November 17, 2014 3:10 pm
Sea Surface Temperatures

The weekly evolution of sea surface temperatures is seen in this animation of images from the start of 2014 through the week of November 5th. (Maps: NOAA. Animated gif: Tom Yulsman)

It seems that 2014 is still very much on track to be the warmest year on record. On Friday, NASA released data showing that this past October tied with 2005 as the warmest in a record stretching back to 1880.

This follows record breaking warmth in September and August.

global warming hiatus

(Source: NASA GISS)

Even so, Earth’s average temperature isn’t rising as fast as it once did, prompting scientists to search for explanations of this so-called global warming hiatus. (Click the thumbnail at right and look at the circled area to see what that looks like in graph form.)

Politicians continue to exploit the slow-down for partisan purposes. As Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the incoming chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said recently: Read More

Captured on Camera: Philae’s Big Bounce Off Comet Surface

By Tom Yulsman | November 17, 2014 11:59 am
A mosaic of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera over a 30 minute period shows the Philae lander drifting above the surface Comet 67P as it descended, and then making a big bounce after its first touchdown. The time of each of inset image, in GMT, is marked. (Source: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

A mosaic of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera over a 30 minute period shows the Philae lander drifting above the surface of Comet 67P as it descended, and then making a big bounce after its first touchdown. Note the time of each inset image marked in GMT. (Source: ESA)

Before coming to rest on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last Wednesday, the Philae lander bounced twice. That much European Space Agency scientists knew fairly early on.

But now, we can see it with our own eyes.

The mosaic of images above, taken by a camera on the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft, shows the Philae lander drifting above the comet’s surface as it descended — and then taking a big bounce after making its first brief touchdown at about 15:43 GMT.

Inset photos show closeups of Philae with timestamps in GMT. Toward the upper right, there are two insets, one showing what the surface looked like before Philae touched down, and the second what it looked like afterwards. Note the subtle depressions in the surface, apparently left by the lander’s feet.

The last inset image, in the upper right corner, shows Philae after it had rebounded from the surface, moving toward the east. Later on (and not visible in this image mosaic), the lander touched down again, only to rebound a second time before coming to rest under a cliff and on its side.

Despite these travails, Philae actually managed to complete its primary science mission during the course of 57 hours on the comet’s surface, according to ESA: Read More

Philae’s Landing: Two Relatively Small Bounces for a Spacecraft, One Giant Leap for Humankind

By Tom Yulsman | November 13, 2014 11:57 am

A two-image mosaic captured by Rosetta’s lander, Philae, on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The lander is resting on its side, and one of its three feet is visible in the foreground. (Source: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

The first-ever soft landing by a spacecraft on a comet was even more dramatic than originally thought. As it turned out, the Philae lander bounced not once but twice before coming to rest on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko yesterday — on its side.



You can see a part of one of the lander’s legs in front of a cliff on the surface of the comet in the mosaic of two images above. Controllers believe only two of Philae’s three legs are in contact with the surface.

Click the thumbnail at right for a panorama of images with an illustration of the lander superimposed to see the lander’s orientation.

Because 67P’s gravity is so slight, on the surface Philae weighs about as much as a few ping pong balls would on Earth. Read More

History is Made: Philae Makes First-Ever Soft Landing on a Comet

By Tom Yulsman | November 12, 2014 10:19 am

An animation of images shows the Philae lander dropping away from the Rosetta orbiter, on its way to a landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 12, 2014. (Source: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

| Update 11/13/14: I’ve replaced the original animated gif at the top of the post with a better one. |

As I’m writing this, the little spacecraft that could — Philae — has made history: It has made the first-ever soft landing on a comet. It is an absolutely astonishing feat.

Discover is covering all of the events live — right here — so make sure to check that out.

I just thought I’d share the animation above of three images showing Philae as it departed from the Rosetta spacecraft on its way to its historic landing.

Rosetta has travelled 4 billion miles. Philae traveled another 13.6 miles and is now transmitting data to Earth. Absolutely outstanding!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Comets, Planetary Science
MORE ABOUT: Comet 67P, Philae, Rosetta

After 4 Billion Mile Trip, Just a Half Marathon to go for Philae as it Tries to Make First Ever Soft Landing on a Comet

By Tom Yulsman | November 11, 2014 12:09 pm

The rugged surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, as seen by the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft. (Source: European Space Agency – ESA)

At 9:03 GMT tomorrow, or 4:03 a.m. Eastern time in the United States, the final stage in an historic 10-year adventure is set to begin: The Rosetta spacecraft will attempt to drop a refrigerator-sized lander onto the rough and rocky surface of a comet.

For the Philae lander, which has been safely secured to Rosetta during the long trip to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, that last leg of the journey will be only 13.67 miles. That’s a little more than a half marathon — after a 4 billion mile trip. If Philae is successful, it will be the first ever soft-landing on a comet.

There is much that can go wrong. As Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute put in a story in the Boulder Daily Camera, “I think the challenges are so great, and the attempt so heroic, that it’s more or less a 50-50 shot.”

Stern should know: He’s a principal investigator for a mapping instrument on Rosetta.

Read More

Arctic Blast Explodes Across the High Plains, Kicking Up a Large Dust Storm Visible From Space

By Tom Yulsman | November 10, 2014 11:54 pm
Arctic blast

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of dust blowing across the plains of Colorado east of Pueblo as a gust front advanced from north to south on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. (Source: NASA)

As Arctic air rushed south across a large portion of the U.S. midsection yesterday, high winds at the leading edge of the cold front lofted palls of dust into the air over the high plains — so much so that they were visible to satellites orbiting high overhead.

You can see the dust in the image above, acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Monday afternoon as the leading edge of the cold air advanced across Colorado. The line of dust is located along the Arkansas River, a little east of the city of Pueblo.

The dusty leading edge of the Arctic blast was also visible to the GOES-East weather satellite:

Arctic blast

An animation of images captured by the GOES-East satellite on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. (Source: NOAA)

Read More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


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.

See More

Collapse bottom bar

Login to your Account

E-mail address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »