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NASA Satellite Shows Southern Tornadoes From Space 59

gabbo529 writes "Like it has done previously with earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis, a NASA satellite has captured a devastating natural disaster from a space satellite. An image acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) from NASA's Aqua satellite on April 28, distinctly shows three tornado tracks in Tuscaloosa, Ala." For those not following the news, a cluster of tornadoes and close-enough storms earlier this week caused the death of hundreds across several US states.
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NASA Satellite Shows Southern Tornadoes From Space

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  • Insurance loss (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @08:54AM (#35983884) Homepage

    FTA: "experts estimate insurance losses at up to $5 billion"'s not called "damage" any more, it's called "insurance loss"?

    The insurance company's bottom line is more important the the people without homes?

    • Re:Insurance loss (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 30, 2011 @09:09AM (#35983952)

      I think the reason for using that figure is that it is data which is relatively easy to gather. Actual damage would include insurance losses plus anything else which was either not claimed or not covered.

      Besides, I'm not sure how it is in your state, but most mortgage lenders require that you have homeowner's insurance. Since the bulk of the insurances losses come in the form of home insurance claims, it's a reasonably repeatable (if not technically accurate) figure to use.

    • Re:Insurance loss (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @09:19AM (#35983992)

      FTA: "experts estimate insurance losses at up to $5 billion"

      Traditionally, when you use those pesky quotation marks, you do not change the text within the quotation marks without indicating that you have done so. You also do not quote so as to change context.

      "Catastrophe risk modeling company EQECAT said that with initial reports of nearly 10,000 destroyed buildings, property insurance losses were expected to range from $2 to $5 Billion."

      Destroyed buildings is a reasonable substitute for damage. Property insurance losses refers to the loss of insured property by the "people without homes" (residences, vehicles, commercial buildings), not the insurance company's bottom line. And nevermind that the 11 preceding paragraphs focus on deaths, missing persons, and general damage.

      You'll forgive me for thinking that you're just as low, if not worse, for turning "the people without homes" into mere prop for your personal hatred of insurance companies.

    • There's a difference: insurable loss is much less than actual damage, insurable loss is tracked by analysts, stock traders, and all kinds of "greed is good" people who are interested in millisecond resolution predictions of future relative valuations of publicly traded securities. So, yeah, they can estimate insurable losses pretty quickly and accurately, and five minutes later they might as well share that information with the news outlets as a good faith trade for some of the up to the second information

    • Insurance costs represent the true cost of a disaster, not just the physical pain. For example, what if the power plan is damaged and my web site is down for 12 hours. There was no physical damage to my servers but I lost the capacity to do business.

  • Any time i hear about tornadoes and their damage, I think: why US military doesn't say a word in tornado prevention?
    On most weather radars tornadoes and tornado-capable clouds are shown almost perfectly.
    So why not
    - fire missiles iodic argentum warheads to such clouds, forcing their rainfall.
    - fire missiles with heavy warheads (conventional) to the already developed tornadoes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      fire missiles with heavy warheads (conventional) to the already developed tornadoes?

      I wouldn't feel comfortable allowing a tornado to throw bombs around.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because A) it's unlikely that would have much of an effect (scale -- unless you're going nuclear, the area of effect would be tiny compared to a tornado a mile wide when they are at their worst); B) just because you can see it doesn't mean you can deploy missiles quickly enough to a location many miles away to be useful. You'd have to have a huge array already in place across the countryside; and C) because nothing could ever go wrong with firing missiles with explosive warheads into the air in a populated

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A typical thunderstorm can have in excess of 10^15 J of energy sloshing around in it, supercells much much more. There is no way you could dump enough energy in to disrupt it using anything short of a nuclear weapon. And even then... that heat energy could actually fuel the cell. And because tornadoes form due to massive updrafts setting off an explosion, which would rapidly rise up due to the hot gasses, is likely a very bad idea.

      As for cloud seeding: we don't know if it works, there is no way to run o

      • by jcdill ( 6422 )

        Tornadoes form where hot moist air and cold dry air meet, the two weather systems creating a strong downdraft on one side, strong updraft on the other. I think it might be possible for a well-placed explosion to create an updraft on the downdraft side, disrupting the initial horizontal rolling air column that, when it dips down at one end then becomes a tornado. You would want to do this long before it develops into a mile-wide vertical column of a massive tornado. Testing this would be difficult, and im

        • I don't think this would work on the scale of a weather system like what hit the South on Wednesday. Although you might stop rotation from forming in the immediate area of the explosion, the system itself is large and moving. In fact, the act of heating and creating the updraft in the cold air zone might generate rotation that could develop into a tornado. Regardless of the specific effect of the explosion, the size of the air masses involved would dwarf the effect. The storm lines that produced these torna
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      I'm not sure these really count as "clouds". You've got a tremendous amount of hot, humid air moving inland (it's been blowing about 15-20mph near-constant for two weeks now here in north Texas) where it meets the cold air on a line roughly dallas to littlerock to chicago, which can't hold that kind of humidity, dumping stupid amounts of moisture (rain) out of the air. The resulting process kicks up more wind. The fact that you end up with something on a satellite photo that resembles something remotely lik

    • In a liability context, they don't know for sure that their actions will reduce damage, and even if they do reduce net damage, they may also redistribute the reduced damage. $5B in tornado damage is an act of God. When they go and mess with it, even if they reduce total damage to $1B (which, there's no telling if their actions will actually reduce, or possibly increase total damage, but assuming the best) - that $1B in damage can now, in some context be arguably "their fault" - it wouldn't have happened i

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      ha, our sirens haven't even worked in 20 years and you want the gubberment to shoot expensive missiles into a cloud

    • unless you are 99.99999999999999% certain that you will actually disable the clouds properly then you could actually make things WORSE.

      try to break down a cloud and you could make it bigger and have 5X the funnels (and or funnels that are 9X the strength)

    • An *average* thunderstorm releases as much energy as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A supercell, like the one that went through Alabama releases a lot more. It would laugh at your missiles.

  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @09:24AM (#35984018)

    Is it a weird coincidence, or those tornados happen exactly when the average global temperature reaches the highest levels since the last ice age?

    • by Psion ( 2244 )
      A weird coincidence ... if that.

      Trend of strong to violent tornadoes 1950 - 2007 courtesy of NOAA. []
    • by siglercm ( 6059 )

      Wow! So true! It's amazing that there were no major tornado outbreaks [] prior to the planet's current catastrophic global warming [].

      There. Two more lies debunked. Carry on.

      • by Arlet ( 29997 )

        As your link says:

        ... current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this time frame, and the conventional terms of 'Little Ice Age' and 'Medieval Warm Period' appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries.

        In contrast, current warming is global

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by siglercm ( 6059 )

          You didn't read the whole article. Turns out there is global evidence:

          "Temperatures derived from an 18O/16O profile through a stalagmite found in a New Zealand cave (40.67S, 172.43E) suggested the Medieval Warm Period to have occurred between AD 1050 and 1400 and to have been 0.75C warmer than the Current Warm Period."[40] The MWP has also been evidenced in New Zealand by an 1100-year tree-ring record.

          Seems the experts disagree. Seems you're quoting a particular disputed opinion that supports your point of view. Just like so many other deniers of the truth, the truth that our planet's climate is bigger than we are, and is controlled by the sun. You know, that big, blindingly bright, glowing ball in the sky during the day?

          • by Arlet ( 29997 )

            True, there have been warm periods on the southern hemisphere as well, but they were all kind of shifted in time, not exactly at the same time.

            The sun, by the way, hasn't gotten any stronger recently, so it can't be used as an explanation for the current rise in temperature. Since the 1980's the sun has actually become less active, exactly when the global temperature has climbed faster than before.

          • Re:Global warming? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> on Saturday April 30, 2011 @12:42PM (#35985024) Homepage Journal

            It really doesn't matter whether current global warming is man made or not. That's a side issue. The real issue is that as global temperatures rise, the areas where we now grow most of the world's food will get drier and more arid, with desertification spreading. The areas which will benefit from improved fertility are smaller anyway, and are quite heavily developed. So we get a fairly large net loss in agricultural output. This at a time when the planet is already carrying a larger human population than ever before, and it's still growing.

            Regardless of what is causing global warming, if we don't do our best to slow it or stop it there is going to be global starvation, war and economic disruption on a scale never seen before. Saying 'but it isn't our fault, it's the sun' isn't going to save your life.

          • And from that Cook and Palmer paper:

            Similar to the NH, this SH expression of the MWP is not homogeneous in time. Rather, it is composed of two periods of generally above-average warmth, A.D. 1137–1177 and 1210–1260, that are punc- tuated by years of below-average temperatures and a middle period that is near average. Overall, this translates to a MWP that was probably 0.3–0.5C warmer than the overall 20th century average at Hokitika and, for the A.D. 1210– 1260 period, comparable to the warming that has occurred since 1950.

            Of equal interest in the reconstruction is the sharp and sustained cold period in the A.D. 993–1091 interval. This cold event is easily the most extreme to have occurred over the past 1,100 years.

            From a discussion of Greenland Ice Core data []

            Even so, it is clear from both the DYE-3 and the GRIP borehole tem- perature inversions that a warm Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) can be observed with peak temperatures from 800 to 1000 AD being some 1.3K warmer than the 1881-1980 AD reference period. From 1000-1400 AD a general cooling is observed at both drill sites, followed by two cold periods culminating around 1500 and 1860 AD, respectively.

            More noise for the dataset?

      • by mangu ( 126918 )

        It's amazing that there were no major tornado outbreaks prior to the planet's current catastrophic global warming.

        There were tornado seasons before, but this one is the worst ever recorded []

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JoeMerchant ( 803320 )

      It's a pretty weird coincidence that more and stronger tornadoes have happened many times between the last Ice Age and now.

      We're getting better at noticing them because the people inhabiting the affected areas: 1. live to tell the tale, 2. can videotape the event and broadcast it to the globe, and 3. have built a bunch of crap that is destroyed by the storm which they will now spend a lot of effort re-building, instead of just shrugging, killing another of the abundant buffalo and making a new tent like the

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      not if you consider it happens every single year at this time

    • Re:Global warming? (Score:4, Informative)

      by formfeed ( 703859 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @12:39PM (#35985002)

      Likely. But, a single outbreak will neither confirm nor disprove any influence of climate change on tornado activity. - But that's also true for all these anecdotal examples of really warm summers and past bad weather the head-in-the-sand climate change deniers will come up with.

      Increasing temperature and higher humidity will make existing storms (hurricanes and tornadoes) more violent. The insurance industry knows that prognosis already. But for real good statistics we'll have to wait another 20 years. Even then, some idiots will deny it, like they deny current climate data.

      Unfortunately, the way it works in the US is that if the industry gets caught unprepared for a crisis, they convince the public that science is wrong. That buys the industry enough time to restructure their resources.

    • Yup, just Earth's natural way of cooling it self. Heat energy -> kinetic energy to overly simplify it. As the ice caps melt, more precipitation will be in the atmosphere. Which means more clouds. Besides the reflection of sunlight clouds provide they also help create storms, where energy is used to create... well what storms do yah know? Its a big negative feedback loop. Earth couldn't had gotten to where it is now without it. The question is how habitable is Earth (for us) at the extremes of the cycles,

    • Is it a weird coincidence...

      I think a weird coincidence would be that after the trees were poisoned in Auburn, the trees in Tuscaloosa were blown away. Now that's a weird coincidence. What you described is a natural phenomena that occurs around this time of year.

      My thoughts and well wishes to all those that were affected by that storm system.

  • by PPH ( 736903 )
    The local news channel had some satellite photos with sufficient resolution to pick out individual houses.
  • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @02:20PM (#35985612)

    Oops, not any more. (My heart goes out to all the people that lost lives and homes, but sometimes humor is a way to cope with disasters).

    The tornado spawning supercell that devastated Tuscaloosa and Birmingham did in fact go right over my house. But I am an hour NE of Birmingham, so by that time it was down to winds strong enough to break 1 inch branches off the trees, the occasional roof shingle, and "your entire yard is underwater" strength rain.

    • by brix ( 27642 )

      Count yourself lucky or blessed, depending on your viewpoint. The tornado that hit Tuscaloosa and Birmingham continued at or near ground level for another 4 hours after Birmingham, crossing into Georgia on the ground in Cave Springs, heading into Tennessee another 90 minutes or so after that, and then (I believe - I was finally asleep at that point) into North Carolina from there. All told, the path of destruction from that one supercell raked at least 300 miles over the course of 7 hours or more. My eye

  • Here are the high resolution versions of the photos in the article: All images for Severe Tornado Outbreak in the Southern United States : Natural Hazards []. The article uses the second one and the fourth one.

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