Evolution of a Hurricane-Force Storm in the North Atlantic

By Tom Yulsman | February 24, 2015 11:47 am


A low pressure system in the North Atlantic that evolved into hurricane-force storm last weekend brought gale force winds and high waves to the United Kingdom and Ireland Sunday and yesterday.

On satellite imagery, the storm looks pretty dramatic, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found.

The image above is a screenshot from a video showing the evolution of the storm. The false-color images comprising the video come from a Meteosat weather satellite. This particular remote sensing product is used to monitor the evolution of cyclones, in particular rapid cyclogenesis.

Here’s a description from the Ocean Prediction Center of the National Weather Service:

The low is shown intensifying east of Greenland, and the imagery indicates a stratospheric intrusion with the deep red and purple shading near the low center. This is a sign of strong winds aloft mixing down toward the surface. The system is then shown moving off to the east into Europe.


Source: NASA Worldview

This closeup, true-color view of the hurricane-force storm swirling between Greenland and Iceland was acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Sunday (Feb. 22).

Lastly, here’s a broader view from Aqua, acquired the same day:


The images I’ve posted here from Aqua were produced using data gathered by an instrument aboard the satellite called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. The satellite is in a near-polar orbit, which accounts for those rather sharp delineations in the image above.

Those lines and the accompanying differences in image tone reflect the orbital track of the Aqua satellite as MODIS was gathering the data that went into constructing this image.

In January, I visited a ground station in Tromsø, Norway, where much of the data produced by Aqua, and its twin, Terra, are received. I’m hoping to write a post at some point about some of these behind the scenes details. I find them fascinating (but of course I would, since I’m obviously a remote sensing geek!).



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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