Ten Years of Weather in Three Minutes
On August 19, NOAA retired the GOES-12 satellite. It will be pushed outward from its geostationary orbit and powered down, resigned to eternity tens of thousands of miles above Earth. It is survived by its orbital amigos GOES-13, 14 and 15, all keeping an eye on our home so that we may learn more about how it ticks. And swirls. And burns. And erupts. And gusts. And rains.
Here is ten years of GOES-12 imagery in three minutes. Our most violent hurricanes, from Katrina to Sandy, become blips of white. The most frigid of polar storms are just momentary streaks. So big to us, so small to Earth.
It reminds me how dynamic our earth and atmosphere really is, and although we may sometimes cower to its force, at least we’ve got a good view of the action from space.
So as many of you know, I’m in San Francisco for the summer working on a science writing fellowship at Wired magazine. It’s been a hectic but exciting change for me.
My first story is up today! Check it out below, and please share with every single person you know so I can boost traffic and impress everyone :)
Alien Invasion? No, It’s Just a Massive Supercell Storm | Wired Science - I spoke with photographer Mike Olbinski about the adventure that brought him face-to-face with this massive supercell storm over Booker, TX last week. He was able to capture a stunning time-lapse video of the rotating UFO of a storm, but you’ll have to click over to Wired to watch that! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Lenticular and Wave Clouds
As wind forces air over the top of mountains, it can force the formation of standing waves in the midst of that wind. As moist air rides up to the peak of the wave, it can condense in the cooler, higher atmosphere. These condensed peaks can stack on top of each other, and form lenticular clouds like we see in the top image above Mauna Kea. “Lenticular” comes from the Latin word for lens, describing the cloud’s oblong shape. Here’s a diagram of that windy wave, from Skybrary:
On the downwind side, those wave peaks can extend for miles and miles, forming spots of condensation at each peak along the way. This forms the beautiful wave clouds you see in the bottom image.
Clouds are pretty cool, eh?
Please read this.
(via The Atlantic Wire)
How the Sun and Moon Are Helping Sandy’s Waters Rise
As Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the Northeast coast of the U.S. over the next couple days, we are already seeing reports of higher-than normal tidal surges for a storm this size. Hurricanes always bring high seas along with them thanks to their intense low pressure, but the fact that Hurricane Sandy happened during a full moon (Monday night) is putting that rising water on steroids.
In a full moon (or new moon), the Earth, Sun and Moon are aligned in a way that not only allows the usual lunar pull on the tides, but also a solar pull! It’s stretching the Earth’s oceans like taffy, creating more extreme high tides that will make Sandy’s surge much worse. The Moon has a much greater pull on tides because of its distance to Earth, but the Sun’s mass gives it a serious influence in situations like this.
The top image shows how this phenomenon works, with the radius of the Earth and Moon to scale. The thing that amazes me is how far apart, in size and in distance, these three bodies really are! The bottom image shows the correct size scale for the Sun, Moon and Earth, but only the Earth/Moon distance is to scale. The Sun would be so far away that I’d have to walk into the next office to finish the graphic!
Here’s a website you’ll want to keep an eye on for the next few days: Visualizing America’s Wind Patterns.
I’ve always thought the live, animated wind maps there were beautiful, one of my favorite science visualizations. But Sandy’s swirling, massive footprint of stormy chaos (in that map view I just captured) is turning the whole eastern half of the country into “Starry Night”!