Stunning images captured on Earth and from Space of weather and climate-related phenomena and interesting objects or events found in our amazing universe
A little bit of snow this winter/spring in the Julian Alps of northwest Slovenia. This photograph taken on Sunday, April 8th, 2018 in a location just a few miles from the northeast border with Italy.
There was orange-tinted snow on Friday, March 23, 2018 in parts of eastern Europe and it also occurred over the weekend. The rare phenomenon is caused by sand from Sahara Desert storms that gets mixed into the precipitation associated with these systems. It happens roughly once every five years or so, but concentrations of sand are higher than usual this time. This MODIS image is of the northeast coast of Libya.
GOES-East got a nice close-up of convective clouds that were part of the second major nor'easter in 5 days for the Northeast US (March 7, 2018). This convection actually resulted in "thunder snow" for many parts of New Jersey and New York City during the height of the coastal storm. (Image courtesy NOAA)
Lenticular clouds (Altocumulus lenticularis in Latin) are stationary clouds that form in the lwoer atmosphere, typically in perpendicular alignment to the wind direction. They are often comparable in appearance to a lens or "saucer" and have been often mistaken for UFOs. This particular lenticular cloud formed on February 8th, 2018 over Mount Hood in Oregon which stands 11, 250 feet tall.on February 8, 2018
Image credit: Washington Post/Capital Weather Gang
This 216-hour forecast map by NOAA's GFS computer model of stratospheric temperature anomalies features a dramatic rise in 10-millibar temperatures on the North America side of the North Pole (map is "top-down" view of the Northern Hemisphere with the North Pole in the center). Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) events are among the most impressive dynamical events in the physical climate system. If history is any guide, this unfolding stratospheric warming event can result in Arctic air outbreaks for the central and eastern US in coming days.
During the winter months in the polar stratosphere, temperatures are typically lower than minus 70°C. The cold temperatures are combined with strong westerly winds that form the southern boundary of the stratospheric polar vortex which plays a major role in determining how much Arctic air spills southward toward the mid-latitudes. This dominant structure is sometimes disrupted in some winters or even reversed. Under these circumstances, the temperatures in the lower stratosphere can rise by more than 50°C in just a few days. This sets off a reversal in the west-to-east winds and the collapse of the polar vortex.
In response to the stratospheric warming (and associated layer expansion) at the high latitudes, the troposphere in turn cools down dramatically (with layer contraction) at the high latitudes. This tropospheric cold air can then be transported from the high latitudes to the middle latitudes given the right overall weather pattern (e.g., "high-latitude blocking"). The tropospheric response to the SSWs closely resembles the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), involving an equatorward shift of the North Atlantic storm track; extreme cold air outbreaks in parts of North America, northern Eurasia and Siberia; and strong warming of Greenland, eastern Canada, and southern Eurasia (Thompson et al., 2002). The entire process from the initial warming of the stratospheric at high latitudes to the cooling in the troposphere at middle latitudes can take weeks to unfold.
GOES-16 with an absolutely stunning view of Pennsylvania's snow-covered topography on Thursday, January 18, 2018.
Landsat 8 captures snowfall in the Sahara Desert for just the third time in 40 yrs. Snow has fallen in the Sahara, covering desert dunes in a layer up to 40 cm deep. Snow started falling on the Algerian town of Ain Sefra in the early hours of Sunday morning, January 7, 2018, giving children an opportunity to race each other down the slopes. Rising temperatures meant it began to melt later in the day. It is the third time in nearly 40 years the town, known as “The Gateway to the Desert”, has seen snowfall.
This GOES-16 satellite image captures a dust storm (center of image) on December 19th, 2017 over the western edge of the Saharan Desert and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Dust storms are caused by strong winds passing over the loose particles of sandy soils, causing them move over the ground and fracture, freeing smaller particles -- i.e., the dust -- that become airborne and transported by the wind. Scientists estimate that, on average, about 20 teragrams of dust are suspended in the atmosphere at any given time and, about half of it is thought to originates in North Africa, due to both the abundance of dust sources there and the region's position under the subtropical jet stream, which carries dust around the world. The rest is said to come from just a handful of other well-known dust-producing regions, including northwestern China’s Taklimakan Desert, parts of Arabia, Iran, the shore of the Caspian Sea, the Lake Eyre Basin in Australia, and the area around Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
MODIS imagery (right) depicts the snowcover from the Saturday, December 9th, 2017, storm with snow all the way down into the Deep South. The actual NOAA snowcover map on the left displays the same strip from the Deep South into the Northeast US.
On 14 November 2017 at about 16:45 GMT a football-sized meteoroid entered Earth’s atmosphere about 50 km northeast of Darmstadt, Germany. It created a bright fireball in the sky, which was seen by thousands of people in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg, and was reported widely by media.
This remarkable image was taken by Ollie Taylor, a photographer from Dorset, UK, who happened to be on a shoot in Italy, in the Dolomites. The landscape scene shows the village of La Villa, Alta Badia, with Ursa Major seen in the background sky.
At dusk on 14 November, he was setting up for a night landscape shoot at Passo Falzarego, at 2200 m altitude, in clear but chilly –6ºC weather.
Ollie reports: “I was composing a shot of this scene and Ursa Major, seen above the meteor. I wanted to get it at twilight so the sky had a nice pink hue. I just decided I was not getting close enough, and was reaching for my other camera with a longer lens, luckily I left this camera exposing!
“It was a stroke of luck, as it’s given me not only the meteor, but great landscape background, too.”
Small lumps of rock enter our atmosphere every day, but it is rare for one to burn so brightly and to be seen by so many people.
“Owing to the meteoroid’s very high speed, estimated to be at least 70 000 km/h, it super-heated the air molecules in its path as it decelerated, creating a very luminous fireball,” adds Rudiger Jehn, of ESA’s Space Situational Awareness programme.
“Observers reported the meteoroid in detail, which allowed us to estimate its final fate: burning up at an altitude of around 50 km above Luxembourg.”
By yesterday, over 1150 sightings had been submitted to the International Meteor Organization, which runs a website to gather sightings of such events worldwide.
[Courtesy European Space Agency, Ollie Taylor]
A high-resolution image (from NOAA-18) of tropical storm Ophelia as it closed in on Ireland on Monday, October 16th, 2017. Hurricane Ophelia was the seventeenth tropical cyclone, fifteenth named storm, and the sixth major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic Basin hurricane season, but never had an impact on the US mainland. Ophelia had non-tropical origins, developing on October 9 out of a decaying cold front that had stalled over the North Atlantic in early October. Ophelia crossed the northern Atlantic Ocean in recent days and had a significant impact on Ireland early on Monday morning with wind gusts over 100 mph.
The heavy rain of the past winter in California set the stage for above-normal wildfire activity during the summer and now during the fall season. Ironically, when rain is abundant during the winter season in California - as was the case in the winter of 2016-2017 - that can actually lead to more wildfires compared to normal during the dry season. The reason for this is that underbrush tends to grow abundantly in the spring given moist ground conditions and this ends up acting as "fuel" to the fire that normally takes place in the dry season. On Monday, October 9th, 2017, wildfires are expanding across wine country in northern California as seen here in this (non-operational) GOES-16 image.
Towering cumulonimbus clouds seen over Genoa, Italy on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.
A 3-D look at Tropical Storm Harvey on August 29th, 2017 after its low-level circulation center re-emerged over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Higher and thicker clouds can be seen to the north and east of the low-level circulation center and those clouds are associated with heavy rain bands that extend from northeast Texas to southern Louisiana at this particular time period.
The "Great American Solar Eclipse" took place on Monday, August 21st, 2017 with a 70-mile path of totality stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. Outside of the totality path, the rest of the country experienced a partial solar eclipse of at least 48% coverage. This series of photographs was taken by Vencore, Inc. employee Dr. Ryan Mercovich (Valley Forge) in southwestern North Carolina just near the Great Smoky National Park. The next total solar eclipse in the US will be in April 2024 and its totality path will stretch from Texas to Maine and includes such cities as Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA.
A partial lunar eclipse took place on August 7/8, 2017, the second of two lunar eclipses in 2017. The Moon was only slightly covered by the Earth's umbral shadow at maximum eclipse. The lunar eclipse resulted in this scene from the ancient Greek temple of Poseidon at Sounion, Greece. The Moon grazed the shadow of our planet for nearly two hours, giving sky watchers in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia a view of the event. At maximum, about 25% of the full Moon's terrain was darkened. The temple was open to the public and crowded with people who gathered to enjoy the eclipse.
[Photo courtesy Elias Chasiotis and spaceweather.com]