Staring straight into the eye of a monster

By Tom Yulsman | September 12, 2018 8:06 pm

As Florence swirled toward the Carolinas today, an astronaut took some chilling photos of the hurricane


They eye of Hurricane Florence, as seen from the International Space Station on Sept. 12, 2018 (Source: ESA/NASA—Alexander Gerst)

“Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It’s chilling, even from space.”

So writes Alexander Gerst, a European Space Agency astronaut aboard the International Space Station who shot this stunning photo looking straight down into the eye of fearsome Hurricane Florence.

As of 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, the hurricane was bearing down on Carolina coastal areas with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour — a modest weakening in recent hours, according to the National Hurricane Center. At the same time, the inner-core and outer wind fields of the storm have continued to expand. That means the cyclone’s total energy has increased, and a bigger area is experiencing the storm’s wrath.


“Watch out, America!,” writes Alexander Gerst. “Hurricane Florence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide angle lens from the International Space Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you. (Source: ESA/NASA—Alexander Gerst)

Florence’s increasing total energy is pushing up gargantuan amounts of sea water ahead of it. This will inevitably result in a “significant storm surge event,” the hurricane center says. Read More

Feasting off unusually warm sea surface waters, Hurricane Florence has exploded in strength

By Tom Yulsman | September 10, 2018 7:09 pm

National Hurricane Center: “Unfortunately, the models were right”


Astronaut Rickey Arnold took this spectacular photograph of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station at 8:10 a.m. EDT on Sept. 10 as it moved west across the Atlantic. Please click to enlarge it. (Source: NASA)

When I woke up this morning, Hurricane Florence was a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds a little above 100 miles per hour. As the storm has moved over very warm waters during the day, it has exploded in intensity to a Category 4 storm with max winds of 140 miles per hour.

As the National Hurricane Center put it this afternoon:

Unfortunately, the models were right. Florence has rapidly intensified into an extremely dangerous hurricane . . .

205721_5day_cone_no_line_and_windThe forecast shows Florence strengthening even further and approaching Category 5 strength tomorrow. (Click on the thumbnail at right for the current forecast track.) It’s not yet clear whether it will maintain that strength until its almost-certain landfall on the U.S. East Coast on Thursday.

But the hurricane center was also grimly direct in this conclusion: Read More

Watch as Florence blossoms from a tropical storm to a hurricane that now poses life-threatening impacts

By Tom Yulsman | September 10, 2018 10:12 am

An animation of amazingly detailed satellite imagery shows Florence strengthening and heading toward the U.S. East Coast

An animation of GOES-16 weather satellite imagery shows Florence strengthening from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane at 15 UTC on Sunday, September 9, 2018. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog)

An animation of GOES-16 weather satellite imagery shows Florence strengthening from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane at 15 UTC on Sunday, September 9, 2018. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog)

After blossoming into a hurricane yesterday, Florence strengthened further overnight into a Category 3 storm this morning with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.

Feasting off the energy from unusually strong sea surface temperatures, Hurricane Florence is intensifying quickly and tracking inexorably toward landfall along the U.S. Southeast or Mid-Atlantic coast on Thursday.

As the National Hurricane Center put it this morning: Read More

Solar eye candy: close-up movie shows a giant eruption rising and twisting from the Sun’s surface

By Tom Yulsman | August 27, 2018 11:56 am
solar prominence

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this animation of a solar prominence on August 13, 2018. (Source: NASA)

In my ongoing hunt for cool imagery to feature here at ImaGeo, I regularly check to see what NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft has been seeing on the Sun. The animation above is one of SDO’s more recent captures.

It shows an eruption of material rising up along invisible magnetic field lines, twisting, and then falling back down, all over a course of two hours on August 13. The feature is known as a solar prominence. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts

This NASA animation shows something one could mistake for blue blood pumping in an alien venous system

By Tom Yulsman | August 17, 2018 3:36 pm

Alien it most certainly is not. But the word ‘venous’ is not far from the mark. So just what is this thing anyway?

Alien venous system?

An alien venous system? (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

When I first spotted this mesmerizing animation on Twitter, my mind really did wander to the metaphorical idea of blood flowing through some sort of alien venous system.

And actually, to the extent that a river can be the lifeblood of a region, you are looking at something akin to a venous system.

The time-lapse animation consists of 14 false-color satellite images of the Padma River, one of the major watercourses of Bangladesh. They were acquired by the Landsat 5 and 8 satellites between 1988 and 2018.

As described in a story at NASA’s Earth Observatory:

For decades, the Padma River has meandered, twisted, and weaved in different shapes through central Bangladesh. Each zigzag and turn tells a geologic story of the region, such as a large flooding event or the opening of a nearby dam.

The images that tell this story of meandering, twisting and weaving were acquired in a combination of shortwave infrared, near infrared, and visible light. And the goal of using them to create this false color view was to highlight differences between land and water.

Here is the same animation, but this time slower, and using natural color:

Riverine venous system

Images: NASA Earth Observatory. Animation: Tom Yulsman

The shoreline of the river in the animations is a relatively modest 75 miles long. Even so, thousands of people rely on the river for irrigation and transportation, according to NASA. Their lives are made challenging by erosion of the riverbank, and the resulting shifting of the shoreline, which is seen so vividly in the imagery.

From a second NASA story about the Padma:

Numerous farms, houses, and lives have been lost or displaced in recent decades because of riverbank erosion that can swallow large chunks of the shore. Every year, hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hectares of land erode and fall into the Padma River. Since 1967, more than 66,000 hectares (256 square miles) have been lost—roughly the area of Chicago.

Look in the upper left corner of the animation above. This the Padma’s upper reaches in the Harirampur region. According to NASA, this section:

. . . has experienced the most erosion and shows the most notable changes. The river has become wider at this section by eroding along both banks, although most activity occurred on the left bank. Using topographic, aerial, and satellite imagery, scientists found that the left bank shifted 12 kilometers towards the north from 1860 to 2009 and developed a meandering bend.

For more details on science of shifting rivers like the Padma, check out the NASA stories I’ve linked to. For geo-geeks (like me!), they offer a great primer in hydrogeomorphology.

Smokey superlatives: widespread wildfire impacts seen from as far away as a million miles from Earth

By Tom Yulsman | August 16, 2018 12:39 pm

The smokey conditions are so bad that one Canadian newspaper has labeled it a “smoke-pocalypse”

Giant smokey blanket over Canada and the U.S.

A thick, widespread smokey blanket was seen over northwestern North America by the Suomi-NPP spacecraft on Aug. 15, 2018. (Source: NASA Worldview)

I was going to take a break from covering the wildfires blazing across large swaths of western North America — until I checked on remote sensing data this morning and saw the satellite imagery above and lower down in this post.

In the the image above, captured by the Suomi-NPP satellite on Aug. 15, check out the thick, sandy-colored smudge of smoke blanketing a huge portion of western North America. At its greatest extents, I measure it at more than 1,000 miles west to east and 500 miles north to south.

In British Columbia, 559 fires burning as of Wednesday prompted the Canadian provincial government to declare a province-wide state of emergency for the second year in a row.

The smoke from all those fires, and 70 large blazes in the western United States, has raised health risks across large portions of Canada and the United States. On Wednesday, much of northwestern North America experienced unhealthy air quality — for all people, not just those at risk from conditions like asthma and heart disease. Read More

What caused this colossal heart-shaped hole in the cloud deck off the coast of California and Baja?

By Tom Yulsman | August 13, 2018 7:14 pm
Hole in the cloud deck

NASA’s Terra satellite spied this heart-shaped hole in the cloud deck over the Pacific on August 7, 2018. (Source: NASA Worldview)

I’m always on the look out for interesting images of Earth shot from space so that I can share them here at ImaGeo. And when I saw the one above, I just couldn’t resist it.

No hole in the cloud deck

Source: NASA Worldview

Often, the cloud deck extends along the coast of California and down into Baja in a more or less continuous manner, as you can see in the image at right acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite five years ago in August. But in the Terra image above, there is indeed a massive heart-shaped hole in the deck.

It’s also visible in images from Terra’s twin, the Aqua satellite, along with a swath of smoke from California wildfires. You can see that here.

I knew that waters off Southern California were very warm.  Record warm in at least one place, in fact, as described in a story posted at NASA’s Earth Observatory:  Read More

From space, numerous wildfires look like glittering embers strewn across a vast swath of the Pacific Northwest

By Tom Yulsman | August 13, 2018 1:49 pm

As more than 140 new wildfires erupted in British Columbia and Washington State, a weather satellite captured this dramatic imagery

From space, wildfires blazing across the Pacific Northwest look like glittering campfire embers

An animation of satellite imagery shows multiple wildfires burning across British Columbia and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. Areas of active burning look like glittering embers in a campfire. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA/GOES-16 Loop of the Day)

Wildfires blazing in California have received a huge amount of attention in recent weeks. But this summer’s wildfire crisis is much more widespread, as shown in dramatic fashion by the animation of satellite images above, as well as other images to follow.

The animation consists of images acquired by the GOES-16 weather satellite over the course of 24 hours, starting at 10 a.m. local time on Aug. 9. It shows the intense heat signatures from dozens of fires blazing in British Columbia and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. To my eye, they really do look like burning embers in a campfire — except these blazes are, of course, very large and intense.

As of yesterday (Sunday, Aug. 12), 586 active wildfires were burning in British Columbia, according to a post from the BC Wildfire Service’s Facebook page. That number includes an astonishing 141 new wildfires that started that day across the Canadian province – mostly due to lightning activity.

Since April 1, 1,784 fires have scorched 1,110 square miles of British Columbia — an area nearly twice the size of the city of Houston. That scorched acreage is already twice as much as the 10-year average for the entire fire season.

Washington State also saw a dramatic upsurge in wildfire activity on Sunday, thanks to lightning strikes. More than 3,300 people are now battling the blazes in the state. Read More

Images captured from orbit show disturbing views of smoke billowing from California’s wildfires

By Tom Yulsman | August 8, 2018 2:56 pm
Smoke cloud rising from Ferguson Fire

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photo of a towering pyrocumulus cloud rising from the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park. Make sure to click on the image and then click again to view close-up details. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

When California’s 2018 wildfire season is over — if it actually ends — it may well be remembered as the summer of the “new normal.”

That is, of course, the meme that has exploded across news and social media this summer as an extraordinary series of wildfires has scorched vast swaths of California.

I’m not actually sure why the meme didn’t take hold last year, which was both the deadliest and most destructive year for wildfires in the state’s history, with at least 41 people killed and 9,393 structures destroyed. All told, wildfires scorched 1,266,224 acres of the state in 2017 — an area approaching half the size of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

In any case, I’ll save the concept of “new normal” for a future post. Here, I thought I would simply offer a selection of compelling remote sensing imagery of still-burning California wildfires, with some statistics and science woven in for context.

Let’s start with the image at the top of this post. Read More

Earth’s climatic report card is out — and we humans are still receiving a failing grade

By Tom Yulsman | August 1, 2018 5:10 pm

Annual climate report finds that as CO2 continues to accumulate at an increasing rate, 2017 was among the hottest years on record

The world has experienced an increasing number of hot days since 1950, relative to the average for 1961-1990. (Source: NOAA, adapted from BAMS State of the Climate in 2017 Report)

The world has experienced an increasing number of hot days since 1950, relative to the average for 1961-1990. (Source: NOAA, adapted from BAMS State of the Climate in 2017 Report)

As abnormally warm temperatures continue to grip much of western North America, a new climate report finds that last year was the warmest on record that did not receive a temperature boost from El Niño.

Considering all years, the 28th annual State of the Climate report confirms that in records dating back to 1880, 2017 saw the second or third highest global average temperature, depending on the dataset used.

The cause? Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases we humans are pouring into the atmosphere. As noted in the report: 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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