3 Sep 2015

Earth from space: five stunning pictures

As satellites orbit our planet, they are constantly casting an eye upon us, snapping image after image of what is going on below.

Nasa has a large collection of these images, which are frequently updated and available to view on its Earth Observation website.

Recently, there have been some particularly striking images, so I thought I’d pull some of them together in a blog and share them with you.

Three major hurricanes in Pacific Ocean

The image below, captured on 2 September, shows three storms, Kilo, Jimena and Ignacio, in the Pacific Ocean.

cat3_storms_NASA_wpA few days prior to this picture being taken, all three hurricanes were of major strength – category three or more.

This is the first time on record that three major hurricanes have been witnessed in the same ocean basin at the same time.

There is no doubt that El Nino, causing much warmer average than normal sea temperatures, has played a part in this happening – providing an abundance of energy on which these storms thrive.

Smoke over the Bohai Sea

The picture below, taken on 13 August, shows a dark plume of smoke drifting over the Bohai Sea off the east coast of China.

smoke_china_NASA_wpIt is likely that this smoke plume was caused by the two huge explosions that hit the port city of Tianjin in China the previous day.

Dust over the western Sahara

The image below from 7 August shows a plume of dust blowing off the western Sahara desert, moving out across the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

canaries_dust_NASA_wpDust is carried within dry air, which inhibits the formation of storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, as they need a moist environment in which to thrive.

This is not the only factor to have impeded the development of hurricanes in the Atlantic this year, with El Nino creating unfavourable wind patterns high up in the atmosphere that tear storms apart.

Typhoon Soudelor

The image below, taken from aboard the International Space Station on 5 August, shows Typhoon Soudelor heading towards Taiwan.

typhoon_soudelor_NASA_wpAt the time this picture was taken, it was equivalent in strength to a category two hurricane, with sustained winds of 100mph.

Soudelor went on to cause loss of life in Taiwan and China, as damaging winds and torrential rain caused flash flooding.

North America’s highest peak

The image below, captured on 15 June, shows North America’s renamed highest peak, Denali.

denali_peak_NASA_wpFormerly known as Mount McKinley, it wasn’t just the mountain’s name that changed. On 2 September, the US Geological survey also announced that it was shorter than previously thought.

Its new official elevation is 6,190 metres, around 3 metres shorter than the old elevation that had been determined in the 1950s.

You can view more images from Nasa’s Earth Observatory here. I also sometimes tweet them on Twitter – @liamdutton

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