Last updated 3 Jun 11

The Latest Cool Image from SPC

This will be updated on irregular occasion as I find (and have time and opportunity to capture) "cool" images: interesting, beautiful, educational, and/or unusual radar, satellite, or analytical imagery dealing with any weather subject. I hope you enjoy this little page.

Page created and maintained by Roger Edwards, Storm Prediction Center

"Spotter in Space" Look at Developing Thunderstorms

In this image, remarkable detail in three dimensions (north-south, east-west and vertical) can be inferred from a photo shot by a satellite in high-Earth orbit. Resolution of geostationary satellites has improved over the years enough that, sometimes, they can offer views of storms not that different than if one were in an aircraft. In fact, for the young and newly glaciated tower labeled above, it's not hard to imagine being a spotter on the ground at that time, just east of the tower, and seeing the very same shapes and features from below the plane of the new anvil.

This richly textured perspective is possible because it's late in the afternoon (offering more shadowing), and because the growing collection of storms over the northern Plains is located far from the "subpoint"--that location on Earth's surface directly below the satellite. This way, the observer (in this case through the lens of a machine in space) perceives about as much in the vertical as in the horizontal.

The "spotter in space" can't be a substitute for the detailed, up-close and continual view of individual storms provided by human spotters on the ground. Still, the increasingly keen resolution of geostationary satellites will help meteorologists to improve their ability to diagnose the progess and development of multiple storms and convective turrets at once, often in remote and/or inaccessible areas bereft of human observers with real-time communications capabilities. As satellite technology improves with each launch cycle, this big-picture perspective will be layered with increasingly fine cloud detail and satellite-based lightning mapping. Such tools will give forecasters a much clearer understanding of how potentially hazardous weather is evolving, and what might happen in ensuing minutes and hours.

Today, it's no longer hard to imagine a time in the coming decades when improved bandwidth and rapid-scanning capabilities allow weather satellites to beam down extremely high-resolution color images every few minutes worldwide. Those might be huge files like what we see now in Google Earth images in resolution and detail, for examining very fine-scale storm structure and behavior. Such satellite imagery also could be used to map swaths of tornado, thunderstorm wind, hurricane and hail damage with great precision and accuracy, at the first uncloudy light following the events. When that happens, the "spotter in space" will realize its fullest potential; but the spotter on the ground still will be needed to see under the clouds in real-time storm situations.

Check out a javascript loop of the development of these storms!

Past Cool Images from SPC

::::: Hurricane Bertha (1996) north of Puerto Rico :::::

::::: Isolated Supercell associated with Hurricane Bertha :::::

::::: Convectively Induced Vort Max Indicated by Radar :::::

::::: California Wildfires: A Satellite View :::::

::::: Severe Hailstorm along a Gravity Wave :::::

::::: Radar Depictions of Outflow Boundaries :::::

::::: Jarrell TX F5 Tornado (27 May 97) :::::

::::: Central American Fires Spew Smoke into U.S. :::::

::::: Thunderstorm Forms over Florida Wildfire :::::

::::: Radar-detected Sunsets from Minnesota to Tennessee :::::

::::: The North Carolina Tornadocane :::::

::::: Pacific Northwest Ship Plumes :::::

::::: Heavy Snow Band as Seen from Space :::::

::::: Mexican Tornadic Supercell :::::

::::: Swath of Rain-cooled Ground :::::

::::: Radar Sampled by Thunderstorm! :::::

::::: X Marks the Distrail :::::

::::: Deadwood Smoke Plume :::::

::::: Towering Cumulus Shadows on Billows :::::

::::: Amarillo's Solstice Supercell :::::

::::: Bat-Eating Supercell :::::

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