Spooky: A nighttime view of Hurricane Sandy's landfall

You’ve seen those photographs from space of the Earth at night with cities lit up like Christmas trees. Imagine that scene with a hurricane added.

Click for hi-res image – Image Credit: CIMSS/Univ. Wisconsin-Madison/NASA/NOAA

NASA/NOAA’s Suomi NPP Captures Night-time View of Sandy’s Landfall

As Hurricane Sandy made a historic landfall on the New Jersey coast during the night of Oct. 29, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NASA/NOAA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite captured this night-time view of the storm. This image provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison is a composite of several satellite passes over North America taken 16 to18 hours before Sandy’s landfall.

The storm was captured by a special “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as auroras, airglow, gas flares, city lights, fires and reflected moonlight. City lights in the south and mid-section of the United States are visible in the image.

William Straka, associate researcher at Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains that since there was a full moon there was the maximum illumination of the clouds.

“You can see that Sandy is pulling energy both from Canada as well as off in the eastern part of the Atlantic,” Straka said. “Typically forecasters use only the infrared bands at night to look at the structure of the storm. However, using images from the new day/night band sensor in addition to the thermal channels can provide a more complete and unique view of hurricanes at night.”

VIIRS is one of five instruments onboard Suomi NPP. The mission is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

On Monday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. EDT, Hurricane Sandy made landfall 5 miles (10 km) south of Atlantic City, N.J., near 39 degrees 24 minutes north latitude and 74 degrees 30 minutes west longitude. At the time of landfall, Sandy’s maximum sustained winds were near 80 mph (130 kph) and it was moving to the west-northwest at 23 mph (37 kph). According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane-force winds extended outward to 175 miles (280 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended 485 miles (780 km). Sandy’s minimum central pressure at the time of landfall was 946 millibars or 27.93 inches.

Suomi NPP was launched on Oct. 28, 2011, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. One year later, Suomi NPP has orbited Earth more than 5,000 times and begun returning images and data that provide critical weather and climate measurements of complex Earth systems.

Suomi NPP observes Earth’s surface twice every 24-hour day, once in daylight and once at night. NPP flies 512 miles (824 kilometers) above the surface in a polar orbit, circling the planet about 14 times a day. NPP sends its data once an orbit to the ground station in Svalbard, Norway, and continuously to local direct broadcast users.

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Tim Walker
October 31, 2012 3:37 pm

Wonderful picture. Thanks for sharing.

October 31, 2012 3:47 pm

“You can see that Sandy is pulling energy both from Canada as well as off in the eastern part of the Atlantic”
The coordinated air movement over such huge areas is stunning…
…and this reminds me of Leroux’ stunning thesis: the Mobile Polar High…
…Leroux who was deleted from Wikipedia for his temerity in questioning CAGW. btw I still plan to write up more about the disgusting treatment of Leroux at Wikipedia, now including the treatment of yours truly, when my time is free again to do this.

Mike Smith
October 31, 2012 4:05 pm

The reaction to Sandy is kinda spooky too. Excellent article at Reason Magazine:

October 31, 2012 4:19 pm

Was it actually a hurricane when the eye made landfall in the USA?

Chuck Nolan
October 31, 2012 4:25 pm

How anybody can look at our world and say man can control the temperature is stunning.
Do they really think we can create and direct the energy necessary for a Cat 5 hurricane?
Plus, they want me to pay for them to try to prove it.
Boggles the mind.

October 31, 2012 4:42 pm

This image is great. A handy full moon too but I can imagian how good these images would be if the moon was new. This is a great new tool. It reminds me of seeing my first Nimbus image all those years ago.

October 31, 2012 4:45 pm

It is imagine not imagian, sorry about that.

A. Scott
October 31, 2012 5:08 pm

It was downgraded as a hurricane once it got far enough North that it changed from a warm tropical to a cold extra-tropical core. It still however retained much if not most of the strength it had as an official hurricane.
It should be noted it was mostly a CAT 1 level hurricane – per the wind speeds, however its pressure was at one point reported at 937mb – a record for a storm North of NC – and more characteristic of a CAT 3.
There was a fair amount of discussion that one of the reasons it was not stronger as to wind speeds was its sheer size – at one point I believe I read its strong winds covered 1000 miles.

October 31, 2012 5:19 pm

Frightening! All our best wishes to our WUWT friends on the East coast of USA and Canada from the UK!

Frank K.
October 31, 2012 5:23 pm

Nature is awesome all on her own – no global warming required…

G P Hanner
October 31, 2012 5:36 pm
October 31, 2012 5:43 pm

I saw an article stating that a hurricane has the energy of 10,000 nuclear bombs. Does anyone know how this is derived? (how the flip does one convert megatons of explosion to energy?)

October 31, 2012 5:50 pm

Image shows clouds all across Canada. Is every cloud “Hurricane force” winds”? Same could be said with regards to satellite views of Sandy.

Poor Yorek
October 31, 2012 6:01 pm

The image I can see has the eye of Sandy still south of the North Carolina/Virginia border and thus still quite far away from landfall (24 hours perhaps?).

John F. Hultquist
October 31, 2012 7:10 pm

Andrew30 says:
October 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm
“Was it actually a hurricane when the eye made landfall in the USA?

This issue was covered ad nauseam [that’s Latin for ‘enough to make one upchuck’] in a couple of previous threads. The “take away’ ought to be that it was not the Big One but it was a serious event enhanced by the moon and other air masses and flows, and there will be greater such storms. Thus, prepare.

John F. Hultquist
October 31, 2012 7:19 pm

Kev-in-Uk says:
October 31, 2012 at 5:43 pm “bombs?”

Try this;
The list of 4 “necessary ingredients” (not necessarily sufficient, though) by the tea kettle image is standard material, so maybe the rest is close enough. More links are at the bottom, so it won’t hurt to check those out too.

October 31, 2012 7:58 pm

Yorek is correct above- This is not a landfall image (since landfall occurred between 5-6 PM EDT anyway) but from about 24 hours previous. Still a great picture.

October 31, 2012 9:03 pm

Amazing – looks like it is just dragging in that system to the north, like a kid twirling around & wrapping herself in a sheet.

October 31, 2012 9:20 pm

Any accounting for the almost straight line western boundary of the cloud flow from Hudson Bay to the Alabama/Georgia border?

John F. Hultquist
October 31, 2012 10:41 pm

Betapug says:
October 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm
“Any accounting for the almost straight line western boundary of the cloud flow from Hudson Bay to the Alabama/Georgia border?

See this from about the same time:
H. Sandy was going north, the Jet was heading south, and there was High Pressure in the N. Atlantic. Somewhat rare. Then the tide (Moon) was also happening. A combination of fairly low probability.

Paul Schauble
October 31, 2012 10:51 pm

energy to megatons: go to Google.com and type in “convert joules to megatons”.
straight line cloud boundary: as stated in the description, this image is a composit of several satellite passes. Thus different parts of the picture are from different times. You are seeing the boundary between two satellite passes.

October 31, 2012 11:02 pm

Spooky! lol
Would you believe me if I told you that I was born on Halloween at 10:10 in Munster.

October 31, 2012 11:02 pm

that’s true btw 🙂

November 1, 2012 3:22 am

OT, and apologies, but I think somewhat related:
I am writing an article, media / activist hype, vs the Reality of Hurricane Sandy. Now, this may seem totally off-topic, but: Hadley Cells. I saw a recent article which spoke of them expanding and contracting. What I am wondering (considering how cold the Southern Hemisphere is being), is do they behave in tandem, or does one expand, while the other contracts?
My thinking is this: shifts in climate cause shifts in weather patterns. We know the climate is changing (although NOT because of CO2). In a conversation I am having elsewhere, it was noted that hurricanes are being pushed further north- a pattern that apparently occured in the first half of the last century, before shifting back into the Gulf region.
Does this make sense? I have a degree in geology and have some understanding of these things, but my learning is still a work in progress.

Doug Huffman
November 1, 2012 5:41 am

The energy equivalent of a ton of TNT is 4.2 gigajoules

Doug Huffman
November 1, 2012 5:44 am

The energy equivalent of a ton of TNT is 4.2 gigajoules.

November 1, 2012 12:19 pm

Paul Schauble says…”
“You are seeing the boundary between two satellite passes.”
This can not be so as this straight line western margin curves steeply westward after it reaches Hudson Bay. The two passes were at different times, day and hight.
I was reminded of Steve’s initial interest in the temperature hockey stick because straight line shapes with sharp diversions almost never occur naturally.
Oddly, this margin looks like a hockey stick rotated counter-clockwise 90 deg.
It must be a sign from the skydragon.

November 1, 2012 2:54 pm

Kev-in-Uk says:
October 31, 2012 at 5:43 pm
I saw an article stating that a hurricane has the energy of 10,000 nuclear bombs. Does anyone know how this is derived? (how the flip does one convert megatons of explosion to energy?)

Kev, “Ten thousand nuclear bombs” is really less informative than saying that the Arctic gained or lost 10,000 Manhattans. Nuclear bombs come in a very broad range of sizes from Kiloton through Megaton ranges, while the area of Manhattan is fixed – pretty much. It is simply saying that the storm has huge energy and can be really destructive.
When you figure that a storm 1,000 miles in diameter, roughly circular, has an area of somewhat less than 800,000 square miles, That would be a nuclear bomb about every 80 square miles. Bomb size would be important. Really big bombs in the megaton range, that would be really, really bad, total destruction due to blast and thermal energy. In the tactical nuke range, it probably be survivable in the near term near the edges. An average lightning bolt has a yield of about 1 kiloton so 16 such bolts yields about the same destructive energy as the Hiroshima bomb did. I seen that many bolts with 15 minutes. The short is that comparing storms to nukes doesn’t tell you much regardless of the wow! factor.

barn E. rubble
November 2, 2012 2:23 am

RE: Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite
Anyone know the Finnish connection? (IE: Suomi)

Chris R.
November 2, 2012 8:11 am

To Kev-in-Uk:
See the postings above by Doug Huffman. I was going to post the identical information. As Duster says, nuclear bombs come in many sizes. Perhaps what was meant was the size of the original Hiroshima bomb, roughly estimated at 12-14 kilotons of TNT. Since the daily energy release of a large hurricane is in the range of 10^18 Joules, this figure would makes sense:
10000 Hiroshima-sized bombs X ( 14000 Tons/ bomb ) X 4.2 x10^9 Joules / Ton = 5.88 x 10^17 Joules
Remember, though, that what does damage in a nuclear explosion (or a hurricane), is the sudden release of energy. That huge amount of energy being released by a hurricane is over the 86,400 seconds of a day, not in the 10 microseconds of a nuclear fireball forming. Earthquakes, too, release huge amounts of energy, and achieve their vastly more devastating results because all the energy released is in a matter of seconds.

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