As the Northwest bakes in a potentially historic heat wave, the region is also choking on thick smoke from wildfires

By Tom Yulsman | August 2, 2017 7:00 pm
heat

Smoke from wildfires blankets a large portion of the Pacific Northwest, as seen in this image from the GOES-16 weather satellite acquired on Aug. 2, 2017. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA)

The Pacific Northwest is sitting under a massive heat dome and a horrible pall of thick smoke from raging wildfires in British Columbia and Washington.

Source: RAMMB/CIRA

Source: RAMMB/CIRA

You can see the grayish smoke clearly in the image above from the GOES-16 weather satellite. Make sure to click on it to view it full-sized. Also click on the thumbnail at right for a labeled version so you can get your geographic bearings.

Air quality across some localized parts of western Washington reached unhealthy levels for everyone today, according to the National Weather Service. And across large swaths of the region, the air has been considered unhealthy for sensitive people, such as those with asthma. Read More

Images from space reveal the beauty and potentially deadly nature of Typhoon Noru, Earth’s strongest storm of 2017

By Tom Yulsman | August 2, 2017 4:01 pm
U.S. Astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photograph of Typhoon Noru from the International Space Station. (Source: Randy Bresnik/@AstroKomrade via Twitter)

U.S. Astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photograph of Typhoon Noru from the International Space Station. (Source: Randy Bresnik/@AstroKomrade via Twitter)

After a very long and strange trip, powerful Typhoon Noru has turned toward Japan.

As of Wednesday afternoon in the U.S., the storm’s maximum sustained winds were pegged at about 115 miles per hour, putting it in Category 3 territory. It now looks like Noru will come ashore on Saturday in the northern reaches of the Ryukyu Islands, which stretch to the south of Japan’s main islands in a gentle arc.

The forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which is reflected in the graphic below, then takes the storm northward across Kyushu Island, where the city of Nagasaki is located, and then out into the Sea of Japan. But some forecast models show Noru bending to the northeast, which would take it on a potentially deadly march up along the main part of Japan. As the Associated Press reports: Read More

Noru transforms from a wandering weakling into a roaring typhoon that is now churning towards Japan

By Tom Yulsman | July 31, 2017 3:34 pm

But forecast tracks for Noru are literally all over the map, so it’s too soon to tell whether the storm will make landfall there

Infrared imagery captured by the Himawari-8 satellite shows Typhoon Nora churning in the Pacific on Monday, July 31, 2017. (Source: RAMM/CIRA Slider)

Infrared imagery captured by the Himawari-8 satellite shows Typhoon Noru churning in the Pacific on Monday, July 31, 2017. (Source: RAMM/CIRA Slider)

For ten days, Noru meandered aimlessly in the Pacific at no more than Category 1 strength, doing a big lazy do-si-do with a tropical storm but otherwise seemingly going nowhere.

By Sunday, Noru had weakened into a tropical storm. But as it wandered southward, it entered an environment with low wind shear plus very warm surface waters at close to 30°C (86°F).

And then…

KABOOM! Noru exploded — with winds increasing by 90 miles per hour in just 18 hours. That transformed the storm from a wandering weakling into into roaring Super Typhoon with winds swirling at 160 mph. It is our planet’s strongest storm of the year so far. Read More

Almost without warning, Tropical Storm Emily formed off the Florida coast and made landfall just south of Tampa Bay

By Tom Yulsman | July 31, 2017 1:16 pm

Where the heck did this storm come from?!

Emily

Tropical Storm Emily, as seen in a timelapse of GOES-16 weather satellite imagery covering two and a half hours, starting at about 7 a.m. (Florida time) on Monday, July 31, 2017. (Source: CIMSS Satellite Blog)

Seemingly out of the blue, Tropical Storm Emily has spun up off Florida’s Gulf Coast and made landfall just south of Tamp this morning. Where the heck did this storm come from?

At 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Weather Outlook noted that something was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. But the outlook also noted that upper-level winds were not conducive to anything significant developing: Read More

WATCH: Satellite imagery shows hurricane-like whirlpools swirling in the atmosphere along the California coast

By Tom Yulsman | July 30, 2017 12:49 pm

These intriguing features form regularly in the summer. They may look like mini-hurricanes — but looks are deceiving.

whirlpool

Screenshot of an animation of GOES-16 weather satellite imagery of the California coast from Pt. Reyes to the Mexican border, acquired on July 28, 2017. Please click on the image to watch the animation. (Source: RAMMB/CIRA/NOAA)

From an airplane, they can look like all the world like mini-hurricanes swirling the clouds above the ocean off the California coast — whirlpools with eye-like features in the center. Check it out:

Read More

Here’s what the Great Red Spot would look like if you could fly to Jupiter to see the monster hurricane yourself

By Tom Yulsman | July 27, 2017 7:36 pm

A image acquired by the Juno spacecraft and processed by a citizen scientist reveals the Red Spot in subtly beautiful natural color

Great Red Spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on July 10, 2017. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson)

Back on July 10th, NASA’s Juno spacecraft swooped low over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot for the seventh time. Since then we’ve been treated to some spectacular imagery — almost all of it enhanced to bring out various features in the persistent 10,000-mile-wide storm.

But what would it look like to human eyes if a person could have been aboard Juno? The image above, released by NASA today, answers that question in breathtaking fashion. As NASA puts it:  Read More

Come again? NASA’s Cassini spacecraft traveled 750 million miles to Saturn only to find a ‘noodle’?

By Tom Yulsman | July 26, 2017 4:33 pm

Okay, to be more accurate, Cassini produced a noodle. Well, actually, it’s a noddle-shaped movie. Sort of…

This video pans across a continuous long and narrow mosaic of 137 images of Saturn captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft when it dove between the giant gaseous planet and its rings on April 26th, 2017. The imagery is greatly enhanced since NASA released an earlier video using the same imagery. Please click on the image to watch the video. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University)

This video pans across a continuous long and narrow mosaic of 137 images of Saturn captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it dove between the giant gaseous planet and its rings on April 26th, 2017. Please click on the image to watch the video. As for why NASA scientists are calling this a “noodle,” read on… (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University)

Yes, my tongue is poking into my cheek — but only part way.

NASA’s just come out with a Cassini spacecraft movie that takes us on a swooping journey low over Saturn’s cloud tops. And, in fact, the video pans across something the agency’s imaging wizards really are calling a “noodle.”

I happen to think it looks more like a nematode than a noodle, or maybe a hookworm. But you can decide for yourself:  Read More

Dance of death: a Pacific Ocean typhoon does the do-si-do with a tropical storm — and then mostly cannibalizes it

By Tom Yulsman | July 25, 2017 7:20 pm
Noru

As Japan’s Himawari satellite watched, Typhoon Noru and Tropical Storm Kulap did a do-si-do in the northwest Pacific — and then Noru pretty much slurped up Kulap. (Infrared imagery: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. Animated gif: Tom Yulsman)

It has been expected for awhile, and now it has finally happened: Two tropical systems in the Northeast Pacific spun around each other in a kind of cyclonic do-si-do — and then the bigger one ate most of the smaller one.

As of Tuesday evening (in the U.S.), the cannibal cyclone, Typhoon Noru, has continued on with Category-1-strength winds of about 70 knots, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Meanwhile, a remnant of the victim, Tropical Storm Kulap, has spun off as a puny little tropical depression.

To be completely accurate, the move wasn’t a classic do-si-do. That’s because in square dancing, each partner spins around the other but keeps facing in the same direction. Meanwhile, cyclones pinwheeling around each other are also spinning themselves.

This is a phenomenon known as the Fujiwhara effect. It happens when two cyclones come within about 900 miles of each other, You can see it all happening in the animation of satellite images above. The infrared imagery was acquired by the Himawari satellite over the course of two days, starting on July 23th, 2017.

Meanwhile, far to the east, two other cyclonic partners are preparing for their own square dance: Read More

Watch as a lonely sunspot grows larger than our planet, turns toward Earth, and gets ready to blast hot stuff at us

By Tom Yulsman | July 22, 2017 6:59 pm

Actually, it’s a sunspot group, and the active region it is tied to let loose an aurora-causing eruption of hot plasma

sunspot

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this view of a sunspot rotating into view between July 5 and 11, 2017. (Source: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng, producer)

I guess I just can’t get enough of time-lapse animations.

A couple of days ago, I was mesmerized by an animation of satellite images showing not just smoke billowing from a California wildfire but also the blaze itself. And yesterday, I was smitten by an animation showing the tiny Martian moon Phobos zinging around the Red Planet.

SEE ALSO: This is just really cool – a time-lapse animation from the Hubble telescope showing a tiny moon zinging around Mars

Today it’s the one above, showing a sunspot group seeming to zip by as the Sun rotates on its axis. It’s actually from earlier in July, and since then, the active region on the Sun that this sunspot group is associated with has produced an explosive flare and massive of ejection of solar material out into space.

Here’s a broader view that provides a sense of scale, and also reveals how the individual spots shape-shift over time: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts

This is just really cool – a time-lapse animation from the Hubble telescope showing a tiny moon zinging around Mars

By Tom Yulsman | July 21, 2017 5:06 pm
time-lapse

The tiny Martian moon Phobos orbits the Red Planet in this animation of images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Please click the animation to enlarge it. (Source: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

On May 12, 2016, when Mars was 50 million miles from Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope turned its incredibly sharp eye toward the Red Planet. The time-lapse animation above reveals what it saw.

That little white speck zinging around Mars is Phobos, a football-shaped moon just 16.5 miles by 13.5 miles by 11 miles. You’re seeing it in an animation consisting of 13 separate exposures by Hubble.

Phobos looks like it is speeding along at an unbelievably rapid clip. In reality, Hubble acquired the 13 frames over the course of 22 minutes. So things are really sped up in the time-lapse.

Even so, Phobos is something of a sprinter. As NASA puts it: Read More

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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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