The monster in moonlight: striking satellite image shows Irma churning north in the dead of night

By Tom Yulsman | September 12, 2017 12:01 pm
Suomi NPP Day/Night Band Image over the southeast United States showing Hurricane Irma over Florida, 0710 UTC on 11 September 2017 (Click to enlarge) Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

The Suomi NPP satellite captured this photo of Hurricane Irma over Florida at 3:10 a.m. EDT on Sept. 11, 2017. (Click to enlarge. Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

As Hurricane Irma continued to churn north over Florida early in the morning of Sept. 11, the Suomi NPP spacecraft passed overhead and sent back this dramatic image.

In the image, acquired by a nighttime sensor called the “Day/Night Band” on the satellite’s VIIRS instrument, the hurricane is illuminated by the relatively faint light of the moon.

But the image reveals more than that. “In addition to the cloud structures, this band can help identify power outages,” writes Scott Lindstrom in the satellite blog of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. “Tampa and Miami city lights are still visible. Key West is dark.” Read More

The most extreme damage from Hurricane Irma may come from huge surges of water pushed onto land by wind

By Tom Yulsman | September 9, 2017 11:24 am
This animation shows an experimental forecast for storm surge between Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. through Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 7 a.m. (Source: National Weather Service)

Forecast for storm surge Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. through Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 7 a.m. (Source: National Weather Service)

Hurricane Irma is a true monster, exceeding the size of Florida itself, and threatening to flatten structures throughout the state with extreme winds. But perhaps the biggest risk is now posed by storm surge – water pushed up onto land.

The animation above shows an experimental forecast for storm surge from the National Weather Service. It shows the height of water above the land’s surface in feet over time, from 7 a.m. EST today through 7 a.m. on Tuesday. (Sept. 9 – 12, 2017.)

“Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property and directly accounts for about half of the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

With Irma now forecast to track up the Gulf coast of Florida, the very biggest risk is along the shore in the southwestern portion of the state, with possible surges exceeding 15 feet there, as the animation above shows. That could prove absolutely devastating. But very significant and potentially deadly storm surge is also likely in many other portions of the Florida coast, and farther north as well.

It is very important to keep in mind that uncertainties in the experimental forecast mean that the actual areas that will experience life-threatening inundation may differ from the areas shown in the animation. The weather service emphasizes that regardless of whether or not you are in the highlighted areas, you should promptly follow evacuation orders and other instructions from local emergency management personnel.

The danger from this storm cannot be overstated.

An animation of high resolution GOES-16 weather satellite images shows extreme Hurricane Irma swirling near Cuba on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Source: RAMMB Slider)

An animation of high resolution GOES-16 weather satellite images shows extreme Hurricane Irma swirling near Cuba on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (The animation may take some time to fully load after you click on the screenshot above. Source: RAMMB Slider)

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The monster’s eye: satellite video offers a terrifying view of Irma, 2nd strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic

By Tom Yulsman | September 6, 2017 10:30 am
Irma

Closeup look at Hurricane Irma’s eye, acquired by the GOES-16 weather satellite. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA)

As I’m writing this on Wednesday morning, the eye of Hurricane Irma — a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm – has passed over the islands of Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, and was shortly headed for the Virgin Islands.

I shudder to think what has been happening on the ground with the storm’s maximum sustained winds clocked at 185 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. This video from Saint Martin says it all:

As Irma continues to grind like a buzz saw toward Puerto Rico and eventually Florida, I’ll try to post regular updates featuring remote sensing images of the storm. The video at the top of this post is my first installment.

It was acquired by GOES-16 as the weather satellite stared into the eye of the monstrous atmospheric vortex. If you watch closely, you can spot swirling shapes within the low-level clouds rotating around the center axis of the eye. Each one is a relatively small vortex itself. Scientists call this a “meso-vortex.” Read More

Dramatic satellite video shows fire and smoke from roaring blazes across more than a million acres of the U.S. West

By Tom Yulsman | September 4, 2017 3:25 pm

Smoke from the fires appears to have blown all the way across North America and more than half way across the Atlantic

Smoke and heat from raging wildfires in Idaho and Montana are seen in this animation of images from the GOES-16 weather satellite on Sept. 3, 2017. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA)

Smoke and heat from raging wildfires in Idaho and Montana are seen in this animation of satellite images acquired on Sept. 3, 2017. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA)

Note: I’ve updated this story to clarify and expand on the role of human-caused climate change in western wildfires. See below. 

As of this afternoon, 77 large fires are burning across 1.4 million acres in eight western U.S. states. That’s an area more than three times the size of Houston.

The burning is part of a long-term trend of increasing wildfire in the West, brought on by a variety of factors, none more significant, according to recent research, than human-caused climate change.

Hardest hit by fire right now is Montana, with 26 large wildfires blazing today across 662,105 acres, according to the the National Interagency Fire Center.  The animation above, consisting of imagery acquired by the GOES-16 weather satellite on September 3, 2017, shows enormous amounts of heat rising many of those fires, detected in the infrared, along with massive plumes of smoke.

Smoke from the fires has been smothering vast swaths of territory. I’ve been looking at a variety of satellite imagery and to my eye it seems that smoke from the western U.S. fires (possibly mixed with smoke from Canadian wildfires) has blown all the way across North America, out over Greenland and across more than half of the Atlantic Ocean.

The following animation of imagery, also acquired by GOES-16, shows the extent of the smoke as day broke across North America today. I’ve circled the smoke in the screenshot. Click on the image to watch the animation. The smoke turns up in something of a salmon color: Read More

Views from space reveal the staggering extent of Harvey’s flooding – now confirmed as a 1-in-1,000-year event

By Tom Yulsman | August 31, 2017 6:15 pm
Satellite images centered on Houston taken on May 2, before Harvey, and Aug. 31, 2017, afterward. (Source: NASA Worldview)

Satellite images centered on Houston taken on May 2, before Harvey, and Aug. 31, 2017, afterward. (Source: NASA Worldview)

As Harvey has lumbered to the northeast, the clouds have dissipated, finally giving satellites a clear view of what the 1,000-year flooding event in southeast Texas looks like.

The animation above tells the tale.

flooding

Image source: NASA Worldview

I created it using images acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite, the first on May 2nd, long before Harvey stormed ashore, and the second image just today. Look carefully at the center of the images and you can see the pattern of roads in the Houston area. (Click on the thumbnail at right for a labeled map that can help you get your geographic bearings.)

The false-color scheme emphasizes the presence of liquid water in deep blue tones. And check out just how much is covering a vast swath of southeast Texas. Read More

Satellites help track Harvey’s staggering rainfall totals

By Tom Yulsman | August 29, 2017 9:42 pm
This animation depicts satellite-based measurements of rainfall from 7:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time on August 25 to 7:30 p.m. on August 28, 2017. (Source: NASA)

This animation depicts satellite-based measurements of rainfall from 7:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time on August 25 to 7:30 p.m. on August 28, 2017. (Source: NASA)

Here at ImaGeo, one of my main goals is to share compelling imagery about the science of our planet. Even when the imagery is the main focus of a post, I’ve ordinarily included a fair amount of explanatory text.

But with a torrent of graphics coming in showing Harvey’s impact, I think I’ll try something new, starting with this post: the imagery with a bit less explanation, but including links to places where you can more info if you want to dig deeper.

The animation above comes courtesy of NASA. The data used to create it come from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission – a partnership between NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and five other national and international partners.

In the animation, the very brightest areas show areas that have experienced the highest rainfall amounts. Many places received 500 millimeters (20 inches) or more between 7:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time on August 25 to the same time on August 28. Some areas have received more than that, but 500 millimeters is the top of the scale in the animation. Read More

Follow Harvey’s calamitous multi-day meander over Texas in this extraordinary animation of satellite imagery

By Tom Yulsman | August 29, 2017 9:38 am

As Harvey flooded Houston with relentless rains, the GOES-16 weather satellite watched from above

An animation of infrared imagery from the GOES-16 weather satellite shows the evolution of Harvey between Aug. 25 and 28 2017. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA)

An animation of infrared imagery from the GOES-16 weather satellite shows the evolution of Harvey between Aug. 25 and 28 2017. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA)

One of the most destructive storms in U.S. history continues to pummel southeast Texas and the nation’s fourth largest city for a fourth day, producing calamitous flooding and plunging a huge region into chaos.

Harvey’s center slowly drifted offshore into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, resulting in the buildup of new, intense thunderstorms that are forecast to pummel Houston with yet more rain through Wednesday and possibly beyond. Harvey is expected to remain just offshore of Texas through tonight, and then begin to swirl toward Louisiana.

Rainfall totals could top an unimaginable 50 inches in some places, thanks in large measure to the slow, meandering path Harvey has taken after it stormed ashore as a Category 4 hurricane. You can watch the storm’s evolution over most of that period in the extraordinary animation from the GOES-16 weather satellite above. It consists of infrared imagery acquired between August 25th and 28th.

At the start of the animation, Harvey was still a hurricane, and its well-defined eye is clearly visible. After coming ashore it transitions into a tropical storm.

Try to keep your eyes on the center of circulation. Once ashore it stalls, spinning off massive amounts of rainfall, indicated by yellow and red colors. It then begins to move ever-so-slowly back out toward the Gulf.

Note: GOES-16 is still in its shakedown period, so the animation is based on preliminary, non-operational data. The satellite is expected to be officially operational in September.

Here’s what tomorrow’s total eclipse would look like if you could watch it from a million miles away in space

By Tom Yulsman | August 20, 2017 12:39 pm
TKTKTK

A total solar eclipse on March 9, 2016, as seen by  NASA’s DSCOVR spacecraft.

Millions of people across the United States will cast their gaze upward to watch tomorrow’s total solar eclipse as it passes across the breadth of the nation. But what would it look like if you could gaze down on it from a million miles away in space?

For an answer, check out the animation above. It consists of 13 images acquired by the EPIC camera aboard NASA’s DSCOVR spacecraft during a total solar eclipse on March 9, 2016. Watch for the dark shadow that progresses across the Pacific Ocean starting northwest of Australia and moving to the northwest. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellaneous, select, Sun, Top Posts

Despite an unusually chilly Arctic, and El Niño’s absence, July 2017 tied for warmest such month on record

By Tom Yulsman | August 16, 2017 11:22 am

That makes last month one of the warmest our planet has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880

TKTKTK

This graph shows how each month since 1880 has varied from the annual mean for the entire globe. The curve shows the seasonal cycle, with the warmest temperatures occurring during summer in the Northern Hemisphere. July 2017 tied with July 2016 for the second warmest such month on record — and was one of the warmest months in the record overall. (Source: NASA GISS)

Up in the high north, it was unusually cool last month. And unlike last year, there was no El Niño to help amp up temperatures for the globe overall.

Yet July 2017 was in a statistical tie for warmest such month in 137 months of record keeping, according to the monthly climate, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

July 2017 was 0.83 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean July temperature for the 1951-1980 period. Only July 2016 showed a similarly high temperature — 0.82 °C.  All previous July’s were more than a tenth of a degree cooler, according to NASA.

The graph above allows us to visualize not only how July 2017 stacked up to previous July’s but also all other months. It shows how each month since 1880 has varied from the annual mean for the entire globe. Read More

The record global warming streak of 2014-2016: a snowball’s chance in hell that this was natural

By Tom Yulsman | August 11, 2017 1:30 pm
This map from NASA shows the pattern of unusual, record-setting warmth between 2014 and 2016, compared to the long-term average. (Source: NASA GISS)

This map from NASA shows the pattern of unusual, record-setting warmth between 2014 and 2016, compared to the long-term average. (Source: NASA GISS)

Okay, I admit that I don’t really know the odds of a snowball surviving in hell. But a new study suggests that’s an apt way of describing the chances that 2014 through 2016’s record-setting heat was natural.

The study finds that there was a 1 in 3,000 chance that natural causes alone were to blame for the sequence of three consecutive global warming records set in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The long-term trend in global temperature. I've circled the record-setting years of 2014-2016.

The long-term trend in global temperature. I’ve circled the record-setting years of 2014-2016.

When humankind’s influence on the climate is taken into account, the odds rise dramatically. In that case there is a 1 to 3 percent chance of such a record-breaking streak occurring, according to the study, published yesterday in the Journal Geophysical Research Letters.

While those chances are still quite small, 1 in a hundred is clearly a hell of a lot more likely than 1 in 3,000. Also consider this: When a longer period of time is considered, the picture changes quite dramatically. The odds of the streak occurring at some point between the year 2000 and 2016 are 20 to 50 percent with human-caused warming accounted for, according to the study, led by Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University. Without anthropogenic warming? Just 0.7 percent.

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ImaGeo

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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