After exploding on Friday, Hurricane Matthew has weakened a bit, but it still remains a ferocious Category 4 storm

By Tom Yulsman | October 1, 2016 2:40 pm

Matthew defied the forecasts, intensifying with shocking speed. The storm now poses a threat to Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba.


A screenshot of an animation of water vapor imagery showing the evolution of Hurricane Matthew between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1, 2016. Click to watch the animation on Youtube. The storm begins as a tropical wave — the circled area of clouds and thunderstorms — moving westward. At the end of the animation, the storm has intensified into a major hurricane. (Source: NOAA/RAMMB/CIRA) (Source: NOAA/RAMMB/CIRA)

Hurricane Matthew will not soon be forgotten by meteorologists.

Despite wind shear that should have hindered its development, the storm exploded to Category-5 strength on Friday. “Jaw dropping,” was how meteorologist Bob Henson at Weather Underground described it. “Dissertations may be written on how this happened!”

With maximum sustained winds on Friday of about 160 mph, Matthew became the first Category 5 storm in the Atlantic since 2007. It also now has the distinction of being the southernmost Category 5 hurricane on record.  Read More

Eerily beautiful images captured 10 years apart reveal the Sun’s shocking split personality

By Tom Yulsman | September 30, 2016 6:07 pm
split personality

A comparison of the Sun as seen by the Hinode satellite during minimum and maximum parts of the Sun’s 11-year cycle. (Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)

Here at ImaGeo, I love posting big, beautiful images of the Sun in all its fiery glory. So when I saw the composite of two images above, there was just no way I could resist — and not just because the colors and patterns are so dang pretty.

The before and after composite reveals something I’ve never seen demonstrated so dramatically before: the Sun’s split personality. (And by the way, make sure to click on it, and then click again to zoom in close.)

The Sun as seen on the left is showing its relatively cool, calm and collected personality, which takes hold during the low point in its 11-year cycle. In this image, you’re seeing the Sun as it looked about 10 years ago.

The Sun as seen on the right is betraying its much more hot-tempered side, during its recent peak in the activity cycle.

Before I saw this composite, I never fully appreciated just how big a transformation the Sun makes over the course of just 11 years. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts

California’s wildfire woes rage on

By Tom Yulsman | September 28, 2016 9:54 pm

Even as the costliest wildfire to fight in U.S. history nears containment, a new, dangerous blaze has ignited

wildfire woes

The Loma Fire burns south of San Jose on Sept. 27, 2016, as seen by NASA’s Terra satellite. (Source: NASA Worldview)

I knew something bad was up when a Facebook friend posted this yesterday:

Oh joy! Now I have smoke coming in from TWO wildfires!

And then a little while later:

104F yesterday. Nowhere to hide. Moving to Canada. 😬 

He lives in the Carmel, California, right on the edge of the Soberanes Fire, which has been burning since July 22. And his comments pretty well sum up California’s wildfire woes at the moment.

Even as the almost-contained, 128,595-acre Soberanes Fire continues to smolder, sending smoke my friend’s way, a new and dangerous wildfire has ignited not far off. It’s the Loma Fire south of San Jose.

After getting started late Monday afternoon, it has destroyed one home and six outbuildings, and threatens 300 more structures. Already covering 2,250 acres, the new blaze is just 10 percent contained, according to the latest update from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CalFire. Here’s a snippet from the update: Read More

The trail of post-debate, fact-checking breadcrumbs reveals multiple falsehoods put forward by Donald Trump

By Tom Yulsman | September 27, 2016 2:22 pm

Last night’s climate claim was just one of many going back years. Others include falsehoods on energy, China and climate change, and drought in California.


Donald Trump, as photographed on Aug. 19, 2015, and Hillary Clinton, on Jan. 24, 1956. (Source: Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Trump by Michael Vadon; of Hillary Clinton by Gage Skidmore.)

Science came up explicitly just once during the debate last night, as Dan Satterfield admirably pointed out quickly in an American Geophysical Union blog post. It happened when Clinton accused Trump of saying that climate change was a hoax.

Trump butted in, saying, “I did not, I do not say that.”

Except, he does.

The trail of fact-checking breadcrumbs that prove Trump’s claim to be, well, a hoax, leads to other equally mendacious statements he has made on climate, energy and other issues.

Let’s follow the trail, starting first with his denial that he ever said climate change is a hoax. Have a look at these comments he made on Fox News and judge for yourself: Read More

With no La Niña to help cool Earth’s fever, last month shattered the mark for warmest August on record

By Tom Yulsman | September 13, 2016 11:20 am
August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping. This continues a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set monthly high-temperature records. (Source: NASA GISS)

August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping. This continues a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set monthly high-temperature records. (Source: NASA GISS)

The heat goes on. And on.

According to data released yesterday by NASA, last month was the warmest August on record. That makes it 11 straight months of record-breaking global heat.

Warmest August

Map of August 2016 temperature anomalies. (Source: NASA GISS

And as it turned out, August tied with July 2016 for warmest of 1,640 months now on record, NASA said. This despite the fact that the seasonal temperature cycle usually tops out in July.

SEE ALSO: This past July was the hottest of 1,639 months on record

Last month was 0.98 degrees Celsius, or 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than the mean August temperature for 1951-1980.  It beat out August 2014, the previous record holder for warmest August, which was 0.82 degrees Celsius above average.

With the continuing global heat, 2016 is almost certain to top 2015 as warmest year on record, according to Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies:  Read More

This past July was the hottest of 1,639 months on record

By Tom Yulsman | August 18, 2016 9:37 pm

July 2016 also was the 379th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average


Even though the El Niño warming episode is over, Earth’s heat streak is continuing. Big time.

Both NASA and NOAA have released their verdicts for global temperatures in July (NASA’s here, and NOAA’s here). And both concur that it was the hottest such month on record.

Since July is typically the warmest month of the year globally, that means it was the hottest of all 1,639 months on record.

Let us count other ways in which July 2016 was noteworthy: Read More

As a giant cruise ship prepares to set sail, the fabled — and treacherous — Northwest Passage is nearly ice free

By Tom Yulsman | August 12, 2016 6:21 pm

The 1,070 passengers scheduled to sail aboard the Crystal Serenity have global warming to thank for shrinking Arctic sea ice

Crystal Serenity

On August 9, 2016, the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image centered on Canada featuring a nearly ice-free Northwest Passage. (Image: NOAA. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

The largest cruise ship ever to attempt a complete transit of the usually ice-choked waters of the famed Northwest Passage is just days away from weighing anchor.

And at least for now, it looks like the coast is almost clear for the Crystal Serenity with its 1,070 passengers and 655 crew members. As of Aug. 11, 2016, sea ice is nearly gone from the southern route of the passage, according to NOAA.

Crystal Serenity

Click to enlarge.

The animation at the top of this post shows the mostly ice-free route, as seen by the Suomi NPP satellite on August 9th. Have a look to get your bearings, then click on the thumbnail at right to see the full-sized, unannotated version. (Click it again to zoom in so you can explore the route I’ve marked in the animation.)

Sea ice has long stymied mariners from completing the journey across the treacherous northernmost reaches of North America. The first documented full transit of the Northwest Passage was made by Roald Amundsen in a small, wooden boat between 1903 and 1906. Since then, his journey has been repeated fewer than 240 times. Read More

Prominent global warming doubter says there was a “hit list” apparently targeting climate scientists

By Tom Yulsman | August 8, 2016 11:10 am
hit list

Patrick Michaels, Director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. (Photo courtesy Cato Institute)

In a comment on an August 3rd post at the Wattsupwiththat website, Patrick J. Michaels of the conservative Cato Institute said that there has been a “hit list” apparently targeting climate scientists, and that he had influence over who was on it.

At this point, it is unclear exactly what this list was about. But from what Michaels said, it looks like it consisted of scientists being targeted for termination from their jobs.

|Note: See the update below about an effort by ExxonMobil in 2001 to get the Bush Administration to oust Robert T. Watson as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change |

Considering the salience of global warming in the presidential election, and the unsettling nature of these comments, I decided to depart from my usual coverage of the science of our planet here at ImaGeo and try to shine a light on this.

Michaels, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, and current Director of Cato’s Center for the Study of Science, is one of the most highly quoted doubters of mainstream science on climate change.

The Wattsupwiththat post to which Michaels responded concerned an announcement that Thomas Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information, was retiring. NCEI is the part of NOAA that releases monthly updates on the global climate.

The post by Anthony Watts at the Wattsupwiththat website did little more than reproduce a copy of the press release announcing Karl’s retirement. Then, on Aug. 4th, Michaels wrote his response in the comments section of the post. Rhetorically addressing Karl, Michaels said:

I saved your job in 2000. You were on a hit list and I had you taken off because I thought you were a straight shooter. Seven months later what is detailed above happened.

Read More

First, a big chunk of the Sun seemingly goes missing; then a satellite sees a Sun-grazing comet plunge to its death

By Tom Yulsman | August 7, 2016 1:56 pm

All the action was captured live and in color by spacecraft. Here’s what it looked like — and what’s going on.


What took a huge bite out of the Sun? (Source: NASA, ESA and JAXA)

Check out the image above, acquired by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. It almost seems like something took a big bite out of the Sun, right?

And if that weren’t enough, here’s what happened a day later:


This screenshot from an animation of images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft (SOHO) shows a comet zooming toward the sun on Aug. 3rd and 4th, 2016. Click the image to watch the animation on Youtube.  (Source: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

That bright streaking object is a comet plunging toward the Sun at nearly 1.3 million miles per hour before getting torn to shreds and vaporized, as witnessed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO spacecraft.

Meanwhile, at the same time the comet was on its death plunge, the Sun belched, letting loose a gargantuan eruption of hyper-hot plasma into space. You can see it in the video — it’s that bolus of bright white stuff spewing out on the left. (Not to worry. It wasn’t directed toward us on Earth…)

SEE ALSO: What’s up with that huge dark hole in the Sun?

Quite an interesting couple of days in the neighborhood of the Sun, eh?

First, let’s deal with the chunk of the Sun that seemed to go missing.

Read More

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

Seen from space: eight days of a blazing California wildfire

By Tom Yulsman | July 30, 2016 8:04 pm

The Soberanes Fire has scorched an area twice as large as Manhattan. Watch nearly its full duration so far in this animation of satellite images.

Soberanes Fire

Click this screenshot to watch an animation of GOES-West weather satellite images showing the blazing Soberanes Fire between July 22, 2016, when it started, and July 30th. (Source: RAMMB)

Since it started on July 22, the Soberanes Fire along California’s Big Sur coast has scorched at least 33,668 acres — an area nearly two and third times the size of Manhattan. Along the way it has destroyed 68 structures and resulted in the death of one bulldozer operator.

More than 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, equipped with 511 fire engines, 40 water tenders, 14 helicopters, six air tankers, and 67 bulldozers.

And after eight days, the Soberanes Fire is still just 15 percent contained. (For the latest on the fire, check out updates from the Incident Information System here.)

I decided to put together an animation of weather satellite images showing nearly the entire duration of the fire, from the morning of July 22 until today. The images come from the GOES-West satellite, which circles the Earth in geostationary orbit. Look at the annotated screenshot up top to get your bearings, then click it to watch it on Youtube. Read More



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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