Super Typhoon Hagupit Aims for the Philippine Islands, Threatening the Region Devastated by Hayan

By Tom Yulsman | December 4, 2014 10:32 am

Typhoon Hagupit swirls to the east of the Philippine Islands in this image captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (Source: NASA)

Super Typhoon Hagupit is swirling off the coast of the Philippine Islands today with maximum sustained winds of about 170 miles per hour and gusts of more than 200 (as of 11 a.m. EST).

It looks like the cyclone, known as Ruby in the Philippines, is headed for landfall there some time on Saturday.


Source: JTWC

The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center and the Philippine PAGASA agency disagree on Hagupit’s exact track, but the storm is likely to hit the area devastated by Super Typhoon Hayan. Click on the thumbnail at right for the JTWC’s latest forecast track. And click here for PAGASA’s forecast.

The good news is that Hagupit is likely to weaken quite a bit before landfall, thanks to wind shear and cooler ocean temperatures closer to the coast. The bad news is that high winds, storm surges, and landslides from torrential rains are all quite possible. Read More

A Gusher of Moisture Hoses California. Is El Niño Here?

By Tom Yulsman | December 3, 2014 1:59 am

Parts of drought-plagued California got hosed by a gusher of moisture streaming up from the tropics on Tuesday.

As the chief meteorologist for Minnesota Public Radio put it, the copious stream of water vapor looks a whole lot like a “pineapple express,” a low level jet of moist air flowing from Hawaii to California.

This is a phenomenon that tends to occur during El Niño winters.

You can see it in the animation above, made up of images from the GOES-15 weather satellite. Look for the broad streak of cloudiness that streams up from the tropics to southern California.

In this case, the moisture is coming from the tropics a bit south of Hawaii. But I’m sure Californians are grateful for the moisture regardless of the exact source. Read More

Weak Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends, Continuing Incredible Lull in Major Landfalling Storms in U.S.

By Tom Yulsman | December 1, 2014 2:34 pm

Alexander Gerst, an astronaut with the European Space Agency, took this photo of Hurricane Edouard from the International Space Station in mid-September, 2014. (Source: Alexander Gerst)

For the ninth year in a row, the United States has gone without a major landfalling hurricane.

This continues an amazing streak: Going in to the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, it had been 3,124 days since the last Category 3+ storm had made landfall in the United States, according to Roger Pielke, Jr., an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado (where I also work).

Meanwhile, the story in Pacific this year has been quite different. No lull there. More about that (and a climate perspective as well) in a minute. But first, some details about the Atlantic:

Overall, the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season ended with below average activity. In total, there were eight named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. That compares with the 1981 – 2010 average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. Another measure, called Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE, came in at just 63 percent of average.

“A combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season, including very strong vertical wind shear, combined with increased atmospheric stability, stronger sinking motion and drier air across the tropical Atlantic,” says Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Also, the West African monsoon was near- to below average, making it more difficult for African easterly waves to develop.”

Despite these conditions, some major storms did manage to blossom. The image above, shot from the International Space Station, shows one of them: Hurricane Edouard, which attained Category 3 strength last September.

But going nine straight years with no major hurricanes hitting the United States is astonishingly unusual. As Jeff Masters of Weather Underground puts it, this marks: Read More

Satellite Spies Gargantuan Sunspots that Could Launch Solar Explosions Toward Earth

By Tom Yulsman | November 27, 2014 12:17 pm

A composite of images captured by Japan’s Hinode spacecraft shows the evolution of massive sunspots during two weeks in October, 2014. (Source: Hinode Science Center/NAOJ)

Looking a bit like nasty bruises, a cluster of truly massive sunspots appeared on the Sun’s surface starting in mid-October. Their collective surface area, measuring 66 times larger than the Earth’s cross section, was the largest in the last 24 years, according to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

The sunspots produced six major solar solar flares before the sun’s rotation swung them out of view to the Hinode spacecraft in early November, which captured the images above.

You’re looking at multiple images superimposed on a single one of the sun showing the evolution and movement of the sunspots from the time they first rotated into Hinode’s view on Oct. 18th (left side of the image) to when they moved out of sight.

The sunspots have since re-emerged and are facing toward Earth again. They are capable of producing additional solar flares and accompanying explosions of solar material — toward us. Read More

Dramatic Growth of Australian Bushfire as Seen from Space

By Tom Yulsman | November 21, 2014 3:02 pm
Australian Bushfire

An animation of images acquired by NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites shows the growth of an Australian bushfire in the state of Queensland between Oct. 13 and Nov. 21, 2014. (Source: NASA)

Much of the United States may have been shivering over the past week or so, with poor Buffalonians worried that their roofs might collapse under staggering amounts of snow. But on the other side of the Earth, Australians have had a far different experience.

For Australia, it was the second warmest October on record. (Globally, two separate reports place October as either the warmest or in a tie for warmest.) That got me wondering what the wildfire situation has been Down Under. So I fired up NASA’s awesome interactive Worldview website to see what I could spot on satellite imagery. The animated gif above is the result of my searching.

You’re looking at a series of images acquired by NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites between Oct. 13 and today (Nov. 21). The Australian bushfire is near Staaten River National Park in the state of Queensland. Read More

Stunning New Satellite Image of Brutal Lake Effect Snow

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 8:19 pm

A GOES weather satellite captured this image of Lake effect snow streaming across and downwind of the Great Lakes on Nov. 18, 2014. In the upper left corner is Lake Superior. Below it is Lake Michigan. To the east is Lake Huron and below it Lake Erie — source of the snow pummeling the Buffalo area. And then north and east of Lake Erie is Lake Ontario. (Source: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

For Buffalonians and others in the Great Lakes region, the snow just keeps on coming. And coming, and coming, and…

Yesterday, some suburban areas of Buffalo got 60 inches or more, prompting the National Weather Service to Tweet that the area may have set a record for “highest 24hr snow in a populated area.” Time will tell whether that’s ultimately confirmed.

Regardless, another round is on the way, with an additional two to three feet forecast for Wednesday through Friday morning. And that’s just in the Buffalo area. The National Weather Service has also issued a lake effect snow warning for counties east of Lake Ontario, with two feet forecast there.

Yesterday, I posted a satellite image of a lake effect snow band over Lake Erie. Today, NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Laboratory published the stunning image above of a broader region of the Great Lakes. It was captured by a GOES weather satellite.

Note the long cloud streamers moving across and downwind of all of the lakes.

A screenshot of a video captured Wednesday by a drone in West Seneca, N.Y., near Buffalo. Click on the image to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: James Grimaldi Youtube channel.)

A screenshot of a video captured Wednesday by a drone in West Seneca, N.Y., near Buffalo. Click on the image to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: James Grimaldi Youtube channel.)

I also spotted a spectacular video on the Washington Post’s Capitol Weather Gang blog and thought I’d share it with you.

Above is a screenshot from the video, which was captured by James Grimaldi using a drone flying over his neighborhood in West Seneca, N.Y. near Buffalo — which has been particularly hard hit. Read More

Totally Insane! Buffalo Suburbs May Have Set a Record for 24-Hour Snowfall in a Populated Area

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 2:03 am

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of clouds streaming across Lake Erie toward Buffalo and Erie County, New York on Tuesday— where they dumped gargantuan amounts of snow. (Source: NASA)

The national record for snowfall in a 24-hour period is 76 inches, up in the mountains of Colorado. Some suburbs of Buffalo approached that amount on Tuesday — “possibly the highest 24hr snow in a populated area,” the National Weather Service Tweeted late Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, four people have lost their lives as a result of the snow.

And it’s not over yet! As I’m writing this early Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service is forecasting more snow well into the day — and then even more through Thursday night:



It has been a classic lake effect snowfall — but on steroids this time.

Read More

Both Beautiful and Disturbing, a New NASA Visualization Shows Carbon Dioxide Emissions Swirling Around the World

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 12:07 am

The following is a guest post from Paul McDivitt, a second-year master’s student studying journalism and mass communication research at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He is taking a course in journalistic blogging from me there. This is his second post at Discover. His first was at Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-Scape blog. Follow Paul on twitter @paulmcdivitt.

In the wake of an historic agreement between the United States and China to curb greenhouse gas emissions, a new visualization from NASA shows just how important these two nations are in combating climate change.

Courtesy of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the visualization — produced by an ultra-high-resolution computer model and spanning May 2005 to June 2007 — shows weather patterns sweeping plumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, major sources of human-caused emissions are concentrated in North America and Asia, especially China, as well as Europe.

Before the industrial revolution, the global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stood at about 270 parts per million. In the visualization, dark blue shows concentrations of 375 parts per million (ppm). Red is indicative of 385 ppm, and light purple 395 ppm.

“I think we all think of CO2 as a well mixed gas within the atmosphere providing a rather uniform blanket across the globe,” said Bill Putman, lead scientist on the project and a research meteorologist at NASA. “This visualization really emphasizes the local distribution of the gas, the regional influences where the gas is trapped in a particular region like China due to its high emissions and also the great barriers in the large-scale atmospheric flow that are the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau that prevent weather systems from dropping into China and mixing the gas.”

In this view, you can see a closeup of emissions from China, a still-growing industrial powerhouse:

Read More

October in a Tie As Warmest on Record. But What About that Global Warming Hiatus?

By Tom Yulsman | November 17, 2014 3:10 pm
Sea Surface Temperatures

The weekly evolution of sea surface temperatures is seen in this animation of images from the start of 2014 through the week of November 5th. (Maps: NOAA. Animated gif: Tom Yulsman)

It seems that 2014 is still very much on track to be the warmest year on record. On Friday, NASA released data showing that this past October tied with 2005 as the warmest in a record stretching back to 1880.

This follows record breaking warmth in September and August.

global warming hiatus

(Source: NASA GISS)

Even so, Earth’s average temperature isn’t rising as fast as it once did, prompting scientists to search for explanations of this so-called global warming hiatus. (Click the thumbnail at right and look at the circled area to see what that looks like in graph form.)

Politicians continue to exploit the slow-down for partisan purposes. As Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the incoming chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said recently: Read More

Captured on Camera: Philae’s Big Bounce Off Comet Surface

By Tom Yulsman | November 17, 2014 11:59 am
A mosaic of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera over a 30 minute period shows the Philae lander drifting above the surface Comet 67P as it descended, and then making a big bounce after its first touchdown. The time of each of inset image, in GMT, is marked. (Source: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

A mosaic of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera over a 30 minute period shows the Philae lander drifting above the surface of Comet 67P as it descended, and then making a big bounce after its first touchdown. Note the time of each inset image marked in GMT. (Source: ESA)

Before coming to rest on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last Wednesday, the Philae lander bounced twice. That much European Space Agency scientists knew fairly early on.

But now, we can see it with our own eyes.

The mosaic of images above, taken by a camera on the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft, shows the Philae lander drifting above the comet’s surface as it descended — and then taking a big bounce after making its first brief touchdown at about 15:43 GMT.

Inset photos show closeups of Philae with timestamps in GMT. Toward the upper right, there are two insets, one showing what the surface looked like before Philae touched down, and the second what it looked like afterwards. Note the subtle depressions in the surface, apparently left by the lander’s feet.

The last inset image, in the upper right corner, shows Philae after it had rebounded from the surface, moving toward the east. Later on (and not visible in this image mosaic), the lander touched down again, only to rebound a second time before coming to rest under a cliff and on its side.

Despite these travails, Philae actually managed to complete its primary science mission during the course of 57 hours on the comet’s surface, according to ESA: 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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