One Day on Earth

By Tom Yulsman | August 12, 2013 9:36 am

Clouds over Australia, as seen by NASA’s Terra satellite on Monday, Aug. 12th, local time. (Image: NASA)

Typhoon Utor as imaged by a weather satellite as it was passing over the Philippines and out into the South China Sea. (Image: NOAA)

Both of these things happened yesterday: a cold front painted delicate streamers of cloud across a desert landscape, and a super typhoon stormed ashore in the Philippines, causing untold misery.

Meteorology can certainly tell you why, on the same day, one set of conditions on Earth produced something that can be described as Earth art, and another set led to the raging monster named Super Typhoon Utor.

The same basic physics accounts for the changes in temperature and pressure that caused water vapor to condense in parallel lines of cloud over southeast Australia, and the gigantic cyclone swirling ashore at 150 miles per hour.

It’s also true that some combination of neurobiology and evolutionary biology can offer up a decent explanation of the awe I feel when I consider these manifestations of nature, and ponder how things so different in appearance and effect can arise from the same basic processes.

But somehow, of course, the whole winds up being larger than the sum of these parts. Which is another way of saying that science can take you a whole long ways but only so far.

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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.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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