Meanwhile, Out in the Pacific Ocean… Meet Tropical Storm 08W, a Possible Threat to Japan

By Tom Yulsman | July 3, 2014 6:18 pm
Tropical Storm 08W

Tropical Storm 08W is seen swirling in the Pacific Ocean about 160 nautical miles southwest of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. (Source: Cooperative Institute for Satellite Meteorology.)

As Hurricane Arthur begins to lash the North Carolina coast with high winds and storm surges, another cyclone is brewing — this one in the Pacific Ocean.

Today, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center upgraded it from a tropical depression to a tropical storm. Designated as Tropical Storm 08W, it is now located southwest of Guam and is expected to strengthen into a full-fledged typhoon on Saturday. (For an explanation of the different terminology used for tropical cyclones, see this.)

As the animation above shows, the storm is forecast to track northwest, and then begin to curve to the north-northeast. According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, it should reach a peak intensity of up to 120 miles per hour, which would make it a very powerful typhoon indeed. Read More

Watch Arthur Explode into a Cyclone and Head up Coast

By Tom Yulsman | July 3, 2014 4:23 pm

NASA’s Earth Observatory just published this dramatic video of Hurricane Arthur, based on data from the GOES-13 satellite.

It shows the evolution of the storm and its movement up the southern Atlantic coast from July 1 through today.

At about 7 seconds into the animation, the storm seems to explode and then take on a clear cyclonic form. Huge thunderstorm clouds begin to blossom in the storm’s arms. There’s another burst of activity and growth at about 50 seconds in, culminating finally in the formation of an eye-like structure.

In its latest update, published at 5 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning for Nantucket Island, as well as for Cape Cod from Provincetown to Chatham. Also, Environmental Canada has issued a tropical storm watch for Nova Scotia from Port Maitland eastward and northward to Point Aconi. For the latest details about the storm from the NHC, please click here. Read More

Hurricane Arthur Threatens Serious Coastal Flooding

By Tom Yulsman | July 3, 2014 2:52 pm
Expected flooding from storm surges is seen in this experimental map from the National Hurricane Center.

Expected flooding from storm surges pushed up by Hurricane Arthur in coastal North Carolina and parts of Virginia is seen in this experimental map from the National Hurricane Center.

As I write this at 3:30 EDT, Hurricane Arthur’s maximum sustained winds are pegged at 90 miles per hour, and conditions are already deteriorating along the North Carolina coast. The storm has accelerated and is intensifying, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It is expected to reach Category 2 strength when it passes over or near the coast of  North Carolina. That means winds of 95 to 100 miles per hour for the Cape Hatteras area at about 8 a.m. tomorrow.

There is also a possibility that Arthur could strengthen to Category 3 status, but the odds are relatively small.

No matter what, this hurricane poses very significant flooding risks for coastal areas, as the experimental map above from the National Hurricane Center shows. It is quite possible that flooding from the storm could cause North Carolina’s Outer Banks to become cut off from the mainland.

To check the flooding risk for other parts of the East Coast, click here. Read More

That’s a Weird Looking Sunspot… Hold On… It’s Actually the International Space Station Transiting the Sun!

By Tom Yulsman | July 3, 2014 1:39 pm

Maximilian Teodorescu of Magurele, Romania captured this fabulous image of the International Space Station passing in front of the Sun on June 30. Both he and his wife knew when the event would happen and set up their telescopes and cameras (with solar filters!) in a corn field in hopes of capturing some good photographs.

“When the moment came we both push our remote control buttons and got the dark silhouette of the ISS close to the freshly emerged sunspot groups 2104 and 2107,” he told

As it turned out, capturing the International Space Station transiting the Sun truly was an international affair, as another astrophotographer in New Hampshire was able to photograph the same scene: Read More

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

Cool New Animation of Arthur (When He Was Just a Tot)

By Tom Yulsman | July 2, 2014 6:44 pm

Heavy rainfall surrounds the center of a low pressure system on June 29, 2014, as measured by NASA’s TRMM satellite. This low later developed into Tropical Storm Arthur. (Source: NASA/Hal Pierce, SSAI)

Check out this new animation depicting the low pressure system that would later transform into Tropical Storm Arthur. (But a warning: If you’re prone to motion sickness, you may want to take something for it beforehand… Just joking, sort of.)

The data, gathered on June 29th by NASA’s TRMM satellite, allowed scientists to construct 3D images of the storm. These images show areas of rainfall, the precipitation’s intensity, and how high into the atmosphere clouds have blossomed. Individual images were put together to create the animation above.

The red tips of the structures in the animation show thunderstorms that have risen fairly high in the atmosphere. As NASA puts it: Read More

Tropical Storm Arthur Takes Aim on the Carolinas. Mandatory Evacuation Ordered for Hatteras Island

By Tom Yulsman | July 2, 2014 6:08 pm

Tropical Storm Arthur swirls off the coast of Florida this morning in a photo shot by astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard the International Space Station. (Source: Reid Wiseman/NASA)

If you were hoping to hang on the 4th on the beaches of the Carolinas, Tropical Storm Arthur — which will likely be declared a hurricane soon — just trashed your plans.

And forget about heading for Hatteras Island: A mandatory evacuation order has just been issued for the island, beginning at 5:00 a.m., Thursday, July 3, 2014.  After 5:00 a.m. Thursday, no access will be allowed.


As the map above from the National Hurricane Center shows, much of the South Carolina coast is under a tropical storm warning. And that ugly swath of red indicates a hurricane warning, which stretches from South Carolina all the way up the North Carolina coast.

Since my first post about Arthur yesterday, the forecast track has been nudged a bit to the west, raising the threat to the Carolinas.

This is no storm to be complacent about, so if you’re on Hatteras Island take the evacuation order seriously and get out as soon as you can. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Earth Science, select, Top Posts, Weather

Wildfires Blazing in Northern Canadian Forests Send Plumes of Smoke More than a Thousand Miles South to Colorado

By Tom Yulsman | July 2, 2014 5:00 pm
wildfires blazing

Smoke plumes are visible from multiple wildfires burning in the Northern Territories in this image captured by NASA’s Terra Satellite this afternoon. (Click to enlarge.) Red dots mark places where the satellite detected fire. The Great Slave Lake is visible toward the bottom portion of the image. (Source: NASA)

More often than not, the morning light I wake up to here in Colorado is pure, brilliant, even sharp. But for the past two mornings, the morning light has reminded me of Los Angeles in October — soft, yellow-golden in color, clearly filtered through a scrim of something suspended in the air.

This is usually a sign that a wildfire is burning somewhere relatively nearby. So on both mornings I stepped out onto my deck and sniffed the air. Nothing. But it turns out that smoke has indeed been filtering the light here — and across a significant portion of both Canada and the United States.

wildfires blazing

A mosaic of iPhone photos shot from Niwot, Colorado, on Wednesday, July 2, 2014, shows a yellowish scrim of haze across the Northern Front Range. Smoke from wildfires blazing in the Northern Territories is contributing to the pollution. (Please click to enlarge. Image: © Tom Yulsman)

The smoke has been coming from wildfires blazing more than 1,000 miles away, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. You can see clear evidence of some of these fires in the image at the top, acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite this afternoon. The red dots show locations where a sensor on the satellite detected fire. (Click the image to enlarge it.)

The panoramic image above is a mosaic of iPhone photos that I shot from the top of a hill near my home in Niwot at about 11 a.m. today. Read More

Tropical Storm Arthur, First of Atlantic Hurricane Season, is a Possible July 4th Threat to N. Carolina’s Outer Banks

By Tom Yulsman | July 1, 2014 3:30 pm
Tropical Storm Arthur

An animation of infrared satellite images shows Tropical Storm Arthur swirling off the coast of Florida today. (Note: The “L” in this animation indicates Arthur as a tropical depression. But it has been upgraded to a tropical storm. Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

It’s finally here — the first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. He’s named Arthur, and if you live along the Eastern Seaboard, he may upset your plans for July 4th.

I emphasize “may,” because at this point it is still difficult for forecasters to predict how Tropical Storm Arthur will evolve over the next four days. That said, forecasts of cyclone tracks are more accurate than strength predictions (as my colleague Andrew Freedman points out here).

With that in mind, the animation of satellite images above shows Arthur tracking up the U.S. East Coast and coming very close to Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. That should happen at about 8 a.m. on Friday, according to the forecast from the National Hurricane Center this morning.

But how strong will the storm be? Read More

The Psychedelic Sun

By Tom Yulsman | June 29, 2014 12:32 am

The Sun, as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Source: Alzate/SDO)

It may look like something right out of the Joshua Light Show circa 1969, but it’s actually a real image of the Sun, as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft in January of 2013.

The image shows the Sun in three wavelengths of light. Each has been colorized either red, green or blue. And while the result seems downright psychedelic (especially to a Boomer like me who is old enough to know what the Joshua Light Show is), this processing reveals the fine details of roiling, magnetized, super-hot solar plasma.

This processing technique has allowed scientists to tease out details of a series of jets and flares that spewed plasma and radiation into space, culminating in a much more massive blast of solar material.

You can find all the scientific details here. But before you go, make sure to enlarge the image above by clicking on it, and linger on the details. You might find it mesmerizing. Maybe even a little like this. (Yes, that’s the Joshua Light Show in the background…)


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

NASA Visualization Shows Air Quality Improving Across the U.S. But is the Trend Beginning to Reverse?

By Tom Yulsman | June 27, 2014 11:45 am
air quality

This animation shows significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide pollution, averaged yearly from 2005-2011, across the United States. (Source: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler)

Despite an increasing population and ever more vehicles on the roads, air quality across the United States has improved significantly in recent years. Watch the skies clear in the animation above, which shows how levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution changed between 2005 and 2011.

The animation is based on measurements by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite.

This is clearly good news. But it’s only part of the story.

Nitrogen dioxide is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It lends a yellowish-brown tinge to the skies, and it can cause respiratory problems. Nitrogen dioxide also contributes to ground-level ozone, which also cause serious health effects.

In its release of the animation and other graphics yesterday, NASA attributed the improvement in air quality to regulation, better technology, and “economic changes.” The agency didn’t specify what it meant by the latter, but I assume this means slower economic growth resulting from the financial crash in 2008.

In fact, if you watch the animation carefully, you’ll see some areas, particularly the Boston-Washington corridor, that experience a slight uptick in pollution in the last year covered. Could this increase be attributed to a pick-up in economic growth? That’s a good guess. I’ll try to find out and report back with an update.

In the meantime, there’s no question that many of us are breathing easier now, including residents of the densely populated New York metropolitan area: 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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