I’ve been missing the view of Earth from the International Space Station since Karen Nyberg returned to Earth a couple of weeks ago. But now, flight engineer Rick Mastracchio aboard the ISS is coming into his own with Tweeted photos from that orbital perch, including this really dramatic one of the Great Salt Lake.
The view is a little disorienting because south is actually to the top of the photo. The snow-capped Wasatch Range, which forms the backdrop for Salt Lake City (in shadow near the edge of the clouds), rims the eastern side of the lake (left side). This north-south mountain range marks the very western edge of the Rockies.
The Basin and Range province begins on the other side of the lake. You can see the snow-covered ridges and valleys of this region toward the right edge of the picture.
That snow likely came from a massive winter storm system that blew in off the Pacific starting on Friday. When Mastracchio snapped his photo, the maelstrom was just to south of the lake.
Here’s an animation of GOES weather satellite images of the storm: Read More
Looking all the world like sperm cells whipping their tails to propel themselves toward an egg, comets Encke and Ison are seen in this animation of spacecraft images swimming through the solar wind toward the sun.
This is actually the first view of Comet Ison from one of NASA’s two STEREO spacecraft. The dark, cloud-like features coming in from the right are actually denser concentrations of the particles streaming outward from the sun that comprise the solar wind. This is what’s causing Encke’s tail to ripple and whip back and forth.
As you’ve probably heard, Ison will be rounding the sun on Nov. 28, 2013, passing within a mere 700,000 miles of it. Considering that the sun is about 870,000 miles across, this will be a very close encounter — and Ison may not survive it intact.
Encke orbits the sun every 3.3 years. But for Comet Ison, this is its first trip around the sun. And that’s really significant, according to NASA, because it means that:
This beautiful visualization simulates global wind patterns, including jet streams in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, as well as individual tropical cyclones.
It was produced by a system of integrated models, called GEOS-5, run on a NASA supercomputer.
Click on the image to get a bigger view and look in particular for small white circles in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. If you look closely, you’ll see faint spiral arms. And a dark center is clearly visible in the center of the one located off the coast of China. These are surface winds from cyclones simulated by the model. Read More
You’ve probably heard of NASA’s Maven mission to Mars, which launched two days ago. The spacecraft is designed to explore the the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere and return insights into whether Mars was ever habitable.
But did you know that India has sent its own spacecraft on a mission to the Red Planet?: the Mars Orbiter Mission. The picture above is the first one of Earth sent back by, well, MOM. And it’s appropriately centered on the Indian subcontinent. It’s featured on the Indian Space Research Organisation Facebook page. (Also, kudos to Emily Lakdawalla, who blogged about it today at the Planetary Society.) The spacecraft is currently orbiting Earth, getting ready for its long journey to Mars.
India, I don’t hear you. I may be on the other side of the Earth, but if all 1.2 billion of you were cheering, I really should be able to pick up the sound…
On Friday, it will be two weeks since Typhoon Haiyan swept across the Philippines as one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record, leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back with a few particularly compelling images.
I made the animation above using before and after satellite images provided by a partnership between Digital Global and Google. The destruction wrought by winds estimated to have reached 165 miles per hour over land — equivalent to low-end EF-4 tornado — is evident. But in case you missed it, look closely at the upper right quadrant of the after image for the large ships washed ashore. (You can find these images, along with others, here. I think you’ll need a Google Plus account.)
Here’s another before and after animation:
The animation shows an area near Dulag, where the eye of Typhoon Haiyan came ashore. I think these images, once again from Digital Globe and Google, dramatize the impact of the enormous amount of rain dumped on the land by the storm as it swept through.
It is still not clear how many people lost their lives, but the number is almost certainly in the thousands. The U.N. estimates that 4.4 million people have been displaced, and 13.2 million have been affected in some way. All told, Haiyan destroyed 527,283 houses, and damaged 1,071,505. (Click here for a a U.N. infographic tallying the storm’s impact in a variety of ways. And click on the thumbnail at right for a map that charts the storm’s toll on houses.)
Just how big was Haiyan? Have a look:
In the image at left, from Rick Khors at the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center, Typhoon Haiyan has been artificially superimposed over the Gulf of Mexico — right where Hurricane Katrina was located before it made landfall. Compare that with Katrina itself in the image next to it.
You might also get a sense of Haiyan’s enormity in the video above, shot from the International Space Station on Nov. 8, 2013.
For me, at least, Haiyan simply defies the imagination — in pretty much every way.
| Update 11/17/13: When I found the image above yesterday, I was struck by the sharp contrast between India and the Tibetan Plateau — demarcated by the rugged, snow-covered Himalayas. For my original post I also included a similar view, photographed from the International Space Station. Today I realized that this large-scale geographic dividing line, perhaps one of the most stark on the planet, would look really dramatic in an image captured from orbit at night highlighting the differences in population patterns. Be sure to read to the end of the post to see what I came up with. |
The snow-covered Himalayas, running in a long diagonal across the false-color satellite image above, mark a dramatic boundary between the warm, moist climate of the Indo-Gangetic Plain and the cold, high, and dry Tibetan Plateau. Read More
It has been anticipated since October, and now a large iceberg has finally split away from the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica.
This is one big chunk of floating ice — 21 by 12 miles, or 252 square miles. (That’s a bit smaller than the city state of Singapore.) The Landsat 8 image above, from NASA’s Earth Observatory, shows it beginning to drift away on Nov. 13. (For more EO images of the event, go here.)
This is by no means the first such large iceberg to calve from the glacier. A similar sized chunk cracked off and floated away just this past July.
While exploring satellite images of the world using NASA’s fabulous interactive Worldview application, I found this beautiful pattern of cloud spirals downwind of the Canary Islands, acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on November 7th.
Called Von Karman vortices, they are not all that uncommon. But I’ve typically seen them in more orderly lines, called “streets,” as opposed to the more chaotic and arresting pattern seen here. Call it “cloud art.”
I wrote about the phenomenon that creates these features in an earlier post, with an accompanying explanatory animation. You can find it here.
I also found this striking pattern of clouds above the Indian Ocean just west of Australia, captured by the same satellite on the same day:
Natural gas wells and their access roads mark the landscape in this iPhone photograph I snapped from while flying over Carbon, County, Utah last June.
At the time, I was on the last leg of a long journey back from Cambodia, headed home to Colorado. This time, as I always try to do, I grabbed a window seat to satisfy my intense fascination with the way landforms look from the air, and how we humans have altered it. From my window seats over the past the past ten years or so, I’ve witnessed a big upsurge in oil and gas development in the West, made possible in large measure by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
That practice was in the news last week here in Colorado where I live, when voters in three cities passed measures on election day to ban fracking within their borders. A ban was narrowly rejected in a fourth city. With that in mind, I thought this would make newsworthy image of the day.
| Update 5:30 p.m. MST, 11/12: After I took my friend Keith Kloor to task in the post below, another friend and colleague has taken me to task for not including the most important factor in what drove the specific catastrophe wrought by Haiyan in the Philippines: the social and economic dimensions. See the bottom of this post, where I correct that omission. It’s an important point, so please make sure to check it out.|
Keith Kloor, a friend and fellow blogger here at Discover, has a provocative post up today titled “The New Normal: Climate Ambulance Chasing.” Speaking of catastrophes like Super Typhoon Haiyan, Keith writes:
…you can be sure that trailing behind these disasters, like ambulance chasers, is a brigade of climate-concerned activists, scientists and their enablers in the media. And trailing behind them is an Anthony Watts/Marc Morano led brigade of chortling denialists, whose main objective is to exploit, for ideological/political purposes, the exploitation of disasters by the climate ambulance chasers.
In the post, he takes journalists to task for bringing up the climatic context of storms like Haiyan. Since I’ve discussed the climatic context of recent extreme weather events here at ImaGeo, I thought it would be a good idea to respond to Keith. So here goes… Read More