17 Apr 2012

Stunning earth images from space

As well as keeping an eye on the weather here in the UK, I also like to look at the stunning images that are captured by the satellites orbiting the earth.

It’s often easy to forget that as well as monitoring the clouds for the weather community and keeping the global communication networks running, they also monitor the surface of the earth.

There are a number of satellites that provide detailed daily coverage of the earth’s surface and they also have the ability to take area focused images when required.

I thought I’d share with you some fairly recent images that are particularly striking.

This first image shows dust in the air over the Sea of Japan. Strong winds over Mongolia on the 8 April whipped up dust into the atmosphere which was then carried eastwards towards Japan the following day. The haze of muddy brown shows the path of the dust clearly.

On 5 April, lightning struck some vegetation in Osceola National Forest’s Pinhook Swamp in Florida. As the area is in a long-term drought, the vegetation was very dry and easily caught fire.

This image shows the plume of smoke rather concentrated at the point of the fire, subsequently spreading outwards and thinning out as it moves towards the coast.

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this amazing image of Shanghai, China at night. This city, with an estimated population of 23 million people (according to 2010 census), sprawls outwards from the centre with the light from roads and buildings creating this circuit board-like pattern amidst the night-time darkness.

This final image resonates with me the most as it has a meteorological link. Jan Mayen, an isolated Norwegian Island in the north Atlantic Ocean has a volcano on it that reaches 2,200m up.

Lots of cumulus clouds have formed over the ocean, but notice that to the south of the island, the clouds have a spiralling pattern.

This has been caused by the northerly wind flow being disturbed as it hits the volcano on the island. The air then retains a spiralling eddy motion that continues southwards and gives the clouds these distinguished appearance – known as Von Kármán vortices.

These are just a selection of images available. If you would like to see more of them, you can visit the NASA Visible Earth website here.

Don’t forget, if you see any weather imagery that you would like explaining, you can always contact me on Twitter – @liamdutton

Images courtesy of NASA Visible Earth Project

Tweets by @liamdutton