Atlantic hurricanes: Is the calm before the storms ending?

By Tom Yulsman | July 29, 2016 8:57 pm

High sea surface temperatures fuel hurricanes — and right now, the tank is brimming. When will the season really get rolling?

Atlantic hurricanes

An infrared view of Africa acquired by the Meteosat satellite on July 29, 2016, reveals two disturbances in the Atlantic, plus new wave disturbances potentially brewing up over Africa. (Source: NOAA)

There are no Atlantic hurricanes on the eastern horizon just yet, but far across the sea from the United States, something is definitely beginning to stir.

More and more weather disturbances are arising over Africa, and propagating westward into the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

“As anticipated, we are seeing a bit more activity appear now over the tropical [Atlantic] basin,” writes forecaster Steve Gregory at Weather Underground.

With very warm sea surface temperatures serving as potent fuel, sooner or later one of these so-called ‘tropical wave disturbances’ should form into a tropical storm and then spin up into a full-blown hurricane. Given that we are just now heading into peak season for Atlantic hurricanes, the overall odds of that happening are increasing by the day.

Have a look at the infrared satellite image above. I’ve circled two disturbances that are now moving westward across the Atlantic. These were born in Africa in the region I’ve circled — where still more wave disturbances are brewing up during the monsoon season there.

Keep reading to find out more about the two disturbances in the Atlantic and what risks they might pose. But first, a little context for what’s going on: Read More

Close-up videos capture big, beautiful explosion on the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | July 25, 2016 5:45 pm

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this view of a solar flare and coronal mass ejection, or CME, on July 23, 2016. Click to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: NASA, ESA and JAXA. Images and movies created using the ESA and NASA funded Helioviewer Project:

A buildup of intensely tangled magnetic energy on the Sun suddenly let go two days ago, unleashing a massive explosion of radiation and super-hot plasma.

The radiation explosion was the most powerful solar flare of 2016 so far.

You can watch all the action close up in the video above, based on data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, or SDO.

When the video starts, keep your eye on the bright active region toward the middle of the frame. It’s seething with energy. Above and around it, glowing, electrified plasma flows along curved lines of magnetic field, creating huge structures known as coronal loops.

And then there is an extremely intense bright flash — the solar flare. This is a sudden blast of radiation traveling at the speed of light.

The flare is accompanied by a titanic splurt (technical term) of solar material called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.

An analogy (albeit imperfect) is a blast from a cannon. The bright flash from the muzzle is akin to the solar flare, and the artillery shell exploding out of the barrel of the cannon is like the CME.

Here’s a view in the extreme ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum (94 Angstroms): Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics, select, Solar System, Sun, Top Posts

The Sand Fire near L.A. has doubled in size, and with dry, gusty winds, extreme fire behavior is forecast today

By Tom Yulsman | July 24, 2016 1:29 pm

Sand Fire

With temperatures up to 97 degrees, humidity down at just 10 percent, and winds gusting as high as 30 miles per hour, the weather forecast today is not what firefighters battling the Sand Fire near Los Angeles might have hoped for.

As the graphic above from the National Weather Service in L.A. shows, extremely dangerous fire behavior is in the offing today.

SEE ALSO: Amazing time-lapse video of the Sand Fire now blazing in northern Los Angeles County

Make sure to click on the link above to watch one of the most amazing time-lapse animations I’ve ever seen. It shows the Sand Fire blazing at night in the hills outside of Santa Clarita.

Sand Fire

Map of the Sand Fire, as of Sunday morning, July 24, 2016. (Source: InciWeb)

The fire has doubled in size to 22,000 acres over the past 24 hours, and it is just 10 percent contained, according to the Incident Information System (InciWeb). More than 1,673 firefighters are battling the blaze. Their resources include 122 fire engines, 15 helicopters and eight bulldozers. (For a map of the blaze as of Sunday morning, click on the thumbnail image at right.)

Fifteen homes have been evacuated. Unfortunately, 18 have been destroyed so far. There is also a report of a scorched body of a deceased man being found in a car sitting in the driveway of a home in Santa Clarita. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Here’s what the fire looked like from space yesterday, as viewed by the GOES-West weather satellite: Read More

Satellite images capture California’s Sand Fire, blazing north of Los Angeles, and the Sobranes Fire near the Big Sur coast

By Tom Yulsman | July 23, 2016 9:50 pm
Sand Fire

An animation of natural and false-color images acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite on Saturday reveal different aspects of the Sand Fire burning north of Los Angels. The natural-color image shows a towering smoke plume from the fire. In the false-color image, orange tones show areas of active burning. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

Update: As of Sunday morning, 7/24, the Sand Fire north of Los Angeles has scorched approximately 22,000 acres, a doubling in size since yesterday; it is just 10 percent contained. The Soberanes Fire on the California coast near Carmel has grown to 10,262 acres, up from 6,500 acres yesterday. It’s just 5 percent contained.

Hot, dry and windy weather is fanning the flames of two California wildfires this evening, one just north of Los Angeles and the other near Carmel.

The Sand Fire north of Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita area, seen in the animation above, has consumed at least 11,000 acres. That number will almost certainly grow in the coming hours.

Earlier today I posted an astonishing timelaspe video of the Sand Fire, shot last night by Mo Sabawi. Check it out here:

Amazing time-lapse video of the Sand Fire now blazing in northern Los Angeles County

Nearly a thousand people, 70 fire engines, nine helicopters, 36 hand crews, and five bulldozers, have been laboring in high temperatures to try to contain that blaze, which as I’m writing this on Saturday evening (July 23) is only 10 percent contained, according to the most recent report from InciWeb. Read More

Amazing time-lapse video of the Sand Fire now blazing in northern Los Angeles County

By Tom Yulsman | July 23, 2016 2:34 pm


The Sand Fire started yesterday at about 2 p.m. near Santa Clarita, California and has since exploded to 11,000 acres in hot and dry conditions, according to the latest report on InciWeb.

Once some imagery of the area from the Terra and Aqua satellites is available, my plan now is to come back later with a new, more detailed post. For now, check out this absolutely stunning timelapse video of the blaze shot last night by Mo Sabawi and posted to his Youtube channel. (Find him on Twitter here: @MoBawi24)

Also, have a look at this video, posted to Twitter, of a water drop over the blaze last night by a Los Angeles County Fire Department Firehawk helicopter: Read More

A blanket of smoke from fires in Siberia is so huge it can be seen from nearly 1 million miles away in space

By Tom Yulsman | July 22, 2016 7:14 pm

It’s a tad faint, but a smudge of smoke is clearly visible in the image below, captured by a spacecraft in deep space


This image was acquired by the EPIC camera on NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft when it was 975,074 miles from Earth on July 21, 2016. Bluish-gray wildfire smoke over Siberia can be seen within the circled area. Make sure to click the image to open it in a new window, and then click on it again to enlarge it. (Source: )

The Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft hovers between the Earth and Sun, keeping a constant eye on our planet’s sunlit side from about a million miles away.

Yet even from that extremely distant vantage point (called Lagrange Point 1), DSCOVR’S camera was able to discern a broad blanket of smoke from wildfires raging in Siberia.

Look for the smoke within the circled area in the image above, acquired by the EPIC camera on July 21, 2016. Click the image to open it in a new window, and then click on it again for a close up view. The smoke is clearly visible.

How much of Siberia is burning?

Despite all the smoke, the Russian government says burning in not terribly extensive. On July 18th, it reported that 77 fires were burning on 45 square miles of territory, an area smaller than Washington D.C. For the year to date, the government says 2,583 square miles have burned.

But Grigory Kuksin of Greenpeace Russia, quoted in a story in Phys.Org, says the government is playing down the extent of the burning. By his accounting, 27,027 square miles have burned so far this year — an area larger than West Virginia.

It’s difficult to know what the precise number is. But given the extensive smoke blanket — which stretches across at least 2,000 miles of Siberia from west to east — I’m guessing that the figure is closer to the estimate from Greenpeace. Read More

Huge amounts of heat are available to fuel Atlantic hurricanes, yet nothing’s happening. What’s going on?

By Tom Yulsman | July 21, 2016 6:11 pm

These animations and images help provide the answer

Atlantic hurricanes

An animation of satellite imagery shows dry and dusty air streaming out over the Atlantic from the Sahara Desert. One image, acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite, shows the scene in natural color on July 20, 2016. Note the dusty scrim streaming out over the ocean from Africa’s west coast. The other, based on data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, highlights dust in tones of yellow, orange and red. Dry and dusty air tends to inhibit the development of Atlantic hurricanes through a number of mechanisms. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

The Atlantic hurricane season started with a bang, but since then? Nada.

Atlantic hurricanes

Warm colors show areas of high ocean heat content in July. (Source: NOAA/AOML)

This despite a huge amount of oceanic heat available to feed these meteorological beasts, as the animation at right shows. (Click to expand it.)

The first hurricane this year, Alex, swirled in the North Atlantic in mid January. That was shockingly early: Since record keeping began, only two other hurricanes are known to have formed in the Atlantic during January, according to Weather Underground’s Bob Henson.

Following Alex, there have been three other named storms. The last one was Tropical Storm Danielle, which dissipated on June 21.

The broadest picture of the dearth of Atlantic hurricanes since then looks like this:

When tropical cyclone activity is high in the Pacific — as it has been recently — things tend to remain calm in the Atlantic. That’s because the rising air that occurs over the eastern Pacific’s stormy areas results in sinking air over the Atlantic. And sinking air is very unfriendly to Atlantic hurricanes.

Beyond that, several factors associated with a phenomenon known as the Saharan Air Layer, or SAL, also inhibit formation of Atlantic hurricanes. Read More


The first half of 2016 was the warmest such period by far in a record dating back 137 years

By Tom Yulsman | July 19, 2016 1:47 pm

Global warming continues, but with El Niño’s passing, Earth’s fever has moderated a bit


Global surface temperature anomalies for the period January 2016 through June 2016. Higher than normal temperatures are shown in red and lower then normal termperatures are shown in blue. (Source: NASA/GISS)

This past month nudged out June 2015 as the warmest on record, according to data just released by NASA.

That makes the first six months of 2016 the warmest first half of any year since 1880. June’s record warmth also means we’ve experienced nine months in a row of record setting temperatures.

A separate analysis released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also shows that the first half of 2016 was the warmest.

By NASA’s reckoning, the first half of 2015 was previously the warmest such period on record. “But 2016 has blown that out of the water,” said Gavin Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, at an online briefing today.

Given the torrid start to the year, 2016 is very likely to finish as the warmest year on record. Read More

Flame broiled Alaska: With soaring temperatures and crackling lightning, wildfires erupt across the state

By Tom Yulsman | July 18, 2016 12:36 am
Alaska wildfire

Natural and false-color satellite views of wildfires in Alaska on July 15th, 2016. (Source: NASA Worldview)

After months of record-setting warmth culminating in extremely high temperatures last week, much of Alaska was primed for wildfire.

Things had been quiet until then, despite the warmest January through June period in Alaska since 1895.

Then the lightning came — with a sudden vengeance: some 45,570 strikes between July 13 and 16th.

The result: Flames finally exploded through Alaskan landscapes, with 114 new wildfires resulting in a more-than-100,000-acre increase in the total number of acres burned in Alaska this season, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.

During one day last week, the acreage burned was one-third of the total that has burned during the entire season. As of July 16th, 481 wildfires had burned 299,632 acres of Alaska. Read More

In case you missed it: Juno’s first view of Jupiter from orbit

By Tom Yulsman | July 16, 2016 12:24 pm

Jupiter as seen from from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

The image above is the Juno spacecraft’s first view of Jupiter and some of its moons after it entered orbit around the gas giant on July 4th.

Published by NASA on July 12, it consists of data acquired by the JunoCam when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter.

Juno was heading away from the planet on its first 53.5-day “capture orbit” — the beginning of its orbital mission. On Oct. 19, the spacecraft will execute its final engine burn of the mission, placing Juno into a 14-day orbit and marking the start of the primary science mission.

SEE ALSO: Happy Birthday, Earth 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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