NASA looks at some severe holiday weather from space

nasa_severe_Dec24Severe weather in the form of tornadoes is not something people expect on Christmas week but a storm system on Dec. 23 brought tornadoes to Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. As the storm moved, NASA’s RapidScat captured data on winds while NOAA’s GOES satellite tracked the movement of the system.

NASA’s RapidScat instrument flies aboard the International Space Station and captured a look at some of the high winds from the storms that brought severe weather to the U.S. Gulf Coast on Dec. 23. In addition, an animation of images from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite showed the movement of those storms and other weather systems from Canada to South America from Dec. 21 to 24.

RapidScat spotted high winds in the Gulf of Mexico while Mississippi was experiencing tornadoes late on Dec. 23. One image RapidScat captured was on Dec. 23 at 1800 UTC (12 p.m. CST) that showed winds as fast as 30 meters per second/67.1 mph/108 kph off the southeastern coast of Texas. As the storm system moved east, on Dec. 24 at 02:00 UTC (Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. CST) RapidScat clocked sustained surface winds of the same strength near south central Louisiana and east of Mobile Bay, Alabama.

Rapidscat images of high winds in the Gulf of Mexico
On Dec. 23 at 12 p.m. CST RapidScat captured showed winds as fast 67.1 mph (red) off the southeastern coast of Texas and by 8 p.m. CST winds of the same strength near south central Louisiana and east of Mobile Bay, Alabama. Image Credit: NASA JPL/Doug Tyler

In addition to RapidScat imagery, NASA created an animation of visible and infrared satellite data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite that showed the development and movement of the weather system that spawned tornadoes affecting the Gulf Coast of the U.S. on Dec. 23 and early Dec. 24.

To create the images and the video, NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project takes the cloud data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite and overlays it on a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. Together, those data created the entire picture of the storm systems and show their movement.

Coupled with local weather observations, soundings, and computer models, data from satellites like NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite or GOES-East (also known as GOES-13) gives forecasters information about developing weather situations. In real-time, the NOAA’s GOES-East satellite data in animated form showed forecasters how the area of severe weather was developing and moving.

According to NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), holiday travel on Dec. 24 includes widespread rain for the eastern U.S., snow and wind for the Great Lakes and more snow for the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains.

In the Short Range Public Discussion on Dec. 24, NWS noted: Severe weather will continue to be possible across portions of the Southeast with damaging winds as the primary threat; however tornadoes cannot be ruled out. Strong winds will also be possible from the Tennessee Valley into the Northeast.

NWS forecasts cited “a broad area of steady rain is expected from Florida to New England, with the heaviest rainfall occurring south of the Virginia state line. The southeastern states can expect some strong to severe thunderstorms ahead of the cold front. On the western side of the developing surface low, rain is expected to change to snow from Illinois to northern Michigan, with several inches of snow accumulation a possibility. There will also be a fair amount of wind over this region as the low intensifies. Some higher-elevation snow showers are also possible for parts of the central and northern Appalachians after the cold front moves through.

In the western U.S., a Pacific storm system is expected to bring widespread snow showers from Washington State to the western High Plains on Thursday, Dec. 25 giving many in those areas a white Christmas. The greatest accumulations are expected for the higher mountain ranges of the central and northern Rockies.”

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite sits in a fixed orbit in space capturing visible and infrared imagery of weather over the eastern U.S. and Atlantic Ocean. The GOES-East satellite is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland created the animation of GOES-East satellite data that covered the period during the severe weather.


For more information about current risks for severe weather, visit NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center at:

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Charles Nelson
December 24, 2014 11:38 am

Warm air from the Tropical Pacific on it’s way to the Arctic to get cooled.
What an amazing and wonderful planet we live on!
May I offer my sympathy to the unfortunate and my best wishes to the lucky.
Happy Christmas everyone.

ferd berple
Reply to  Charles Nelson
December 24, 2014 12:31 pm

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

Reply to  ferd berple
December 24, 2014 2:00 pm

If Dr. Viner was referring to Orlando, he was right. We have not seen snow to the best of my knowledge since the 1970s. However, one enterprising outfit in the tourist area does make artificial snow at times. I don’t know what government agency provides the grant to do so, but it must be substantial. 🙂

Reply to  ferd berple
December 24, 2014 9:03 pm

In other breaking news, Julius Caesar has crossed the Rubicon. Film at XI.

Reply to  ferd berple
December 26, 2014 11:02 am

From the wiki: (And if THEY admit it, it must be true! 😉

January 8/9, 2010: Very light dusting of snow seen in the eastern Jacksonville area. Light snow also fell in parts of central Florida, which briefly accumulated in Ocala and other parts of Marion County. A “wintry mix” of sleet and freezing rain was widespread, with reports of light snow across central Florida from Tampa to Orlando to Melbourne. Isolated flurries were even reported from West Palm Beach to as far south as Kendall and sleet in a few spots in the South Florida metropolitan area for only the second time in recorded history and first time since 1977.

Generally, though, in longer term cooling events, the slow down of the Gulf Stream (as the heat to drive it lessens) causes a cold Europe and a ‘backing up’ of what heat there is in Florida. (Pollen and species studies of ice ages along with dust and more). So generally winters in Florida become more “summer pattern with warm rain” and less dry and cold, as the Gulf Stream slows during cold turns. But give it a while for the oceans to catch up to the land before that effect hits.

Reply to  Charles Nelson
December 24, 2014 11:06 pm

“What an amazing and wonderful planet we live on!”

John Boles
December 24, 2014 12:17 pm

Thick fog here in Rochester Michigan yesterday, warm, I like weather like this, 43 today, rain, no ice or snow.

December 24, 2014 12:27 pm

Warm in Ontario, but too many days without sun…:(

Reply to  jrwakefield
December 24, 2014 11:08 pm

It’s the same in Iowa – but it looks like we’re going back in the deep freeze next week…not looking forward to that…

December 24, 2014 12:32 pm

A cold holiday
It’s cloudy and gray,
Oh, where is our globe a’warming?
Depends on the sun
and which way waters run.
Plus clouds with complexity forming.

Jay Hope
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 27, 2014 1:18 am

I like it!

December 24, 2014 12:37 pm

“RapidScat” sounds like bowel problem.

Reply to  RokShox
December 25, 2014 1:20 pm

Could be a cure for constipation…

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 26, 2014 12:37 am

… a scientist I work it out with a pencil.

ferd berple
December 24, 2014 12:37 pm

Even Santa heads south to escape the cold.

December 24, 2014 12:56 pm

What I think is neat is seeing the day-night boundary circling the planet . How do they maintain the imaging over night ? Are their sensors that sensitive now days ? They must use some pretty major automatic brightness control .

Reply to  Bob Armstrong
December 24, 2014 1:26 pm

Infra Red and overlayed with a day lit globe.
Yup, IR escapes with no problems.

Reply to  Andyj
December 25, 2014 12:55 am

Not for long, Eventually enough CO2 will accumulate to block that IR.

Bubba Cow
December 24, 2014 2:26 pm

A question (pardon my lack of knowledge):
“To create the images and the video, NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project takes the cloud data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite and overlays it on a true-color image of land and ocean . . .”
What is the cloud data? Isn’t this some of the “information” not in the pretty models? or so I’ve read.
Happy Holidays!

Luke Warmist
December 24, 2014 3:14 pm

Merry Christmas Mr. W, and all those who’s comments I see every day. The best to all of you!

December 24, 2014 3:58 pm
It’s Christmas Day here in the Antipodes … Merry Christmas to all of you!

December 24, 2014 4:06 pm

Thanks, A.
And a Merry Christmas to you!

Alan Robertson
December 24, 2014 5:08 pm

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

December 24, 2014 5:17 pm

Merry Christmas to all from West Coast Australia. Hope that storm doesn’t do much damage.

December 24, 2014 5:22 pm

NASA looks at some severe holiday weather Confirmation Bias from space
There, better title.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
December 24, 2014 11:13 pm

Can we get a “Like” button here?

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
December 25, 2014 2:46 pm

Here’s one on the extravagant use of holiday lights and it’s religion tracking implications:

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 25, 2014 5:22 pm

Of Course NASA never ever uses any energy at all.

Gerry Eddy
December 24, 2014 6:13 pm

I have lived in the Raleigh, NC area now for 27 years. Each and every December, late December, like now, we experience a warm/strong frontal boundary moving through from West to East. All are accompanied with the prerequisite and appropriate tornado watches or warnings.
Kind of like a natural cyclical event…..:0)

Reply to  Gerry Eddy
December 24, 2014 11:12 pm

I didn’t think it was all that rare. Even Iowa had mild Decembers back in the ’60s…Christmas days walking downtown with just a sweater on. There is nothing new under the sun :0)

Reply to  4TimesAYear
December 25, 2014 1:35 pm

Same thing with rainfall, we had droughts in Illinois in ’54, ’83, and 2012. All 29 years apart. From my perspective that’s cyclical.

December 25, 2014 12:57 am

There. And if you’re not nicer to Canada, we’ll just keep sending that cold air. Nice warmth you have there, it’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.

December 25, 2014 10:37 am

The cold will return next week . I talked to my brother in Yellowknife and they had -40 C last night with wind chill of -47 C . this will likely make it south by early next week.

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