NASA Spacecraft Watches as Sun Belches Spectacularly

By Tom Yulsman | October 7, 2014 9:13 am

A massive cloud of solar material was blasted out into space when a flare erupted from the Sun on Oct. 2, 2014. The action was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Source: NASA/SDO)

On October 2, the Sun let loose with a bright flash of radiation — a solar flare — propelling a cloud of particles probably weighing a trillion tons or so out into space at a million miles per hour.


SDO spacecraft. (NASA)

Solar flares and associated plasma belches likes this (the latter are known more properly as coronal mass ejections) are relatively common during the peak of the ~11-year solar cycle — which is occurring right now. The flare was moderate in magnitude (M7.3 class).

While the flare itself may not have been particularly noteworthy, the high-resolution image of the solar plasma being flung out into space is undeniably spectacular. It was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.

In geosynchronous orbit around Earth, SDO has a continuous view of the sun. (That’s SDO in the thumbnail image above. Click it for an enlarged view.)

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts

Swirling Cyclonic Eye Candy in the Northeast Pacific: Beautiful but Dangerous

By Tom Yulsman | September 25, 2014 2:20 am

At one point, the swirling cyclone in the animation of  weather satellite images above was producing winds of hurricane strength. Luckily, as it neared shore it weakened.

Even so, it brought heavy rain to British Columbia on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Here’s what it actually looked like from the shore:

Thanks to the Weather Network for this video. Read More

As a New Movement in Earth’s Seasonal Symphony Begins, Climate Change in the Arctic Keeps up its Brisk Tempo

By Tom Yulsman | September 24, 2014 11:44 am

A mosaic of images from NASA’s Terra satellite shows the entire Arctic region, centered on the North Pole (where the dark spot indicates missing data). The images were acquired on Sept. 17 — when Arctic sea ice likely reached its minimum extent for 2014. (Source: NASA)

In 2014, Arctic sea ice has continued in its long-term and dramatic decline, a process that is likely helping to accelerate the pace of overall climate change in the north.

That’s the news from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, announced on Monday — just as world leaders were preparing to meet at the United Nations in New York to grapple with climate change.

According to the NSIDC, Arctic sea ice — which floats atop the ocean — likely reached its minimum extent for the year on Sept. 17th:

This is now the sixth lowest extent in the satellite record and reinforces the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent. Sea ice extent will now begin its seasonal increase through autumn and winter.

Meanwhile, at the opposite pole, Antarctic sea ice has: Read More

Every Day Wonders: Look Who Came Knocking

By Tom Yulsman | September 22, 2014 10:26 am

A true katydid clinging to my front door. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

In early September, I launched a new semi-regular feature here at ImaGeo, “Every Day Wonders,” with a photo of a blossoming thundercloud over unusually verdant fields here in Colorado.


Moe. (©Tom Yulsman)

The image above is the second installment.

Doing her (or his?) best to imitate a leaf, this katydid was clinging to my front door here in Niwot, Colorado on Sunday. I spotted her when a neighbor also came knocking to return my dog, Moe, who had escaped the back yard through an open gate. (That’s Moe in the thumbnail at right.)

This katydid’s normal habitat would be in the tops of the trees, where her leaf-mimicking color and patterning would help her escape the attention of birds, bats and other predators. When I opened the door to speak to my neighbor, I caught sight of her out of the corner of my eye and thought, momentarily, that she was a leaf. But that seemed odd: How was a leaf clinging to my door?

At that point, my neighbor pointed her out, and I dashed inside to get my camera.

Katydids are in the Tettigoniidae family. They’re related to grasshoppers, from which they can be distinguished by their very long antennae that can be longer than their bodies. By contrast, grasshoppers feature much shorter antennae.

On summer and early autumn nights, male katydids “sing” to attract mates by rubbing their front wings together. To some human ears, the “lyrics” sound like “Katy did, Katy didn’t” — thus, the common name for this lovely insect. Check it out here.

And Here’s Another Astounding View of Cali’s #KingFire

By Tom Yulsman | September 19, 2014 1:24 pm

No sooner had I hit ‘Publish’ on my earlier post than I found this mind boggling photograph of California’s King Fire. It’s so dramatic that I decided to share it with you in a separate post.

I found it on Twitter while searching on #KingFire. Head over there for more compelling photos of the blaze. And for stunning satellite images, as well as an explanation of pyrocumulus clouds and information about the climate context, please see my earlier post here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, select, Top Posts, Wildfire

Stunning Satellite View of California’s Massive King Fire. With Climate Change, We Should Expect More Such Views

By Tom Yulsman | September 19, 2014 1:04 pm
King Fire

The Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument captured this view of California showing areas of burning and the smoke plume from the massive King Fire. (Source: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

California’s King Fire continues to blaze out of control in heavy timber and steep terrain in Eldorado National Forest north of the community of Pollock Pines.

The fire ignited Saturday and spread with breathtaking speed through a landscape desiccated by hot temperatures and California’s profound and record-breaking drought. So far, the King Fire has scorched more than 70,000 acres, forcing nearly 2,800 people to evacuate their homes. As of this morning, 4,425 people were participating in the battle against the blaze, which is just 10 percent contained.

A 37-year-old man from Pollock Pines has been arrested on a felony arson charge in connection with the fire.

King Fire

King Fire Pyrocumulus cloud. (Source: King Fire Facebook page.)

The false-color satellite image at the top of the post shows areas of burning and a long smoke plume. It was captured on Wednesday, September 17 by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite.

For a view from the surface, click the thumbnail at right. It shows a towering pyrocumulus cloud that blossomed above blaze. The Weather Guys at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies offer a clear explanation of this fascinating phenomenon:

The fires that generate these clouds can be man-made or natural. A big fire produces strong upward moving air currents that carry water vapor and ash upward. The water vapor can condense on the ash, forming cloud drops. The vigorous upward motions produce these pyrocumulus clouds that look similar to thunderstorm clouds, which also form due to strong upward moving air.

Here’s what the pyrocumulus clouds from the King Fire looked like from space: Read More

With Summer’s Unequalled Warmth, 2014 is Likely to Finish as the Warmest Year on Record for the Home Planet

By Tom Yulsman | September 19, 2014 11:26 am
warmest year

Towering, glacier-carved peaks loom over the sea in the Lofoten Islands near Svolvær, Norway in this iPhone photomosaic of four images captured on September 11, 2014. This part of the Arctic experienced its warmest summer on record. (Photomosaic: ©Tom Yulsman)

August and the summer of 2014 have both gone down in the books as the warmest such periods since modern record keeping began in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced.

warmest year

Lofoten Islands near Henningsvær, Norway. Please click to enlarge. (©Tom Yulsman)

And with a warmth-bringing El Niño probably emerging, the odds are very good that the rest of the year will be warmer than the long-term average — which means we’re likely on track for 2014 being declared the warmest year on record.

So you might be wondering: Why the photo above of rugged mountains rising right up from the water in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, as well as the thumbnail photo to the right from the same area? Here’s part of the reason:

warmest year

Read More

Odile: The Still-Swirling Storm That Keeps on Giving, Bringing Torrential Rains and Severe Flooding Risks

By Tom Yulsman | September 18, 2014 10:14 am

The VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite captured the visible and infrared images of Hurricane Odile that make up this animation. Odile managed to maintain hurricane intensity — with the faint signature of an eye still visible — even after the storm spent several hours crossing the rugged terrain of Baja on September 15, 2014. Now, the remnants of the storm are bringing torrential rains and flooding from Arizona to Texas. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog)

Heavy downpours from the still-swirling remnants of Hurricane Odile could bring life-threatening floods and mudslides from southeastern Arizona across southern New Mexico and into western Texas and the panhandle through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Flooding has already occurred in Arizona — just 10 days after Hurricane Norbert drenched the region, producing a record high single-day rainfall total in Phoenix. This also marks the first time in recorded history that two tropical systems have affected Arizona in such a short period of time, according to the weather service’s Tucson office.

Color infrared imagery from the GOES-East weather satellite this morning show large amounts of water vapor over the region: Read More

Postcard from Norway: the Sky Shimmers With Green Fire Following Two Gargantuan Explosions on the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | September 13, 2014 6:08 pm

The aurora borealis shimmers above the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø, Norway on September 12, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

You may have heard about the massive flares and explosions that erupted from the sun this week. These photos show what happened when the blasts hit Earth: spectacular displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

I’ve been traveling in Norway this week, and when I heard about the solar activity and the aurora forecast I borrowed a tripod from a friend here in Tromsø and raced out the door with my wife to take some photos. The images I captured show what happens when Earth’s magnetic field is bombarded by material coming from the Sun.

The photograph above shows the aurora borealis glimmering above Tromsø’s arresting Arctic Cathedral on Friday, September 12, 2014. Light from the city and the moon made the sky a bit bright, which helped to dim some of the detail in the aurora. Moreover, the sky was obscured by some cloudiness — and the clouds were light up by the streetlights below, which explains their somewhat strange coloring.


The skies above Mount Stor­stei­nen, Norway, glowed green with the northern lights on September 12th, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

Read More

Postcard from Norway’s Magical Lofoten Islands — A Biodiversity Hotspot to Rival the Amazon

By Tom Yulsman | September 8, 2014 5:34 pm
The view from the M/S Lofoten on the journey from Bodø to Svolvaer in Norway, Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo: © Tom Yulsman)

The view from the M/S Lofoten on the journey from Bodø to Svolvaer in Norway, Sept. 8, 2014. Please click to enlarge. (Photo: © Tom Yulsman)

Greetings from Norway’s spectacular Lofoten Islands, one of the crown jewels of our planet’s biodiversity: an environment above the Arctic Circle where coral reefs actually thrive, seabirds by the millions roost, and Orcas, humpbacks, and sperm wales — not to mention humans — feast on teeming stocks of fish.

This biodiversity has been described as an Arctic Amazon rainforest and Great Barrier Reef all in one.

I’m here to help lead a field trip that’s part of a climate change communication course organized by a colleague at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. I’ll have more to say about this special place in coming days. In the meantime, I thought I’d post this ImaGeo postcard.

I photographed the scene up top as our Hurtigruten ship, the M/S Lofoten, was steaming out into Vestfjorden, a wide bight of water separating the Lofoten archipelago from the Salten district of Norway. (For a map, click here.) Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Arctic, Environment, Nature, Ocean, select, Top Posts

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


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.

See More

Collapse bottom bar

Login to your Account

E-mail address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »