Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
November 20th, 2017
NASA didn’t fail to deliver. In a stunning video, they illustrate the catastrophic hurricane season of 2017 that brought so much suffering and damage.
The 2017 hurricane season was extremely active, with devastating storms like Harvey, Irma, and Maria that plowed through the Caribbean and Gulf Coast.
But these storms didn’t just bring water and wind. They churned up huge quantities of sea salt, blew smoke from wildfires around the globe, and pulled in dust from the Sahara, which was washed into the oceans with the rain.
NASA satellites were tracking those tiny salt, smoke, and dust particles as they blew around the world throughout the hurricane season.
Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center were able to use supercomputers to turn that data into a stunning visualization that shows how winds moved particles through Earth’s atmosphere.
The bright blue salt whipped up by powerful cyclones is quite the sight. Also, watch how the smoke from wildfires in the Western US and Canada flies all the way across the Atlantic:
Getting a better understanding of how all these particles interact on a global scale will help us better understand how they affect weather.
National Geographic reports that by the beginning of September, just as Harvey dissipates, Irma forms off the western coast of Africa. The bright blue concentration of salt clustered at its center mixes with the tan dust aerosols from the Sahara Desert.
While not directly impacting this season’s hurricanes, smoke from the northwestern U.S.’s devastating wildfires can simultaneously be seen spreading fully across the Atlantic Ocean.
By the end of September, Hurricanes Maria and Jose also spiral into formation.
The final hurricane shown in the simulation is Ophelia, which formed in the eastern Atlantic and followed an uncommon northeastern trajectory. The storm made headlines after it spread Saharan Desert dust over western Europe, creating red “Martian” skies over London. The visualization shows how Ophelia traps the dust in its path and whips it toward the north.
Understanding how particles impact hurricanes gives scientists a fuller picture of how these storms move and grow. Additionally, it shows how aerosols can be spread thousands of miles by atmospheric changes other than hurricanes.
The unique atmospheric conditions hurricanes require to form in the first place are pretty well known. Their energy is powered by warm seawater over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and sustained when wind shear is low. La Niña and El Niño weather patterns, which influence ocean temperature, can impact the severity of a hurricane season. Those cyclical phenomena largely impact Pacific Ocean currents, but understanding atmospheric cause-and-effect could help scientists predict changes in other regions of the world.
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