Clouds: The Ever-Changing Sky

One day the sky is clear blue and another day clouds are there to create a beautiful sunset. Clouds can also have a negative connotation when associated with a thunderstorm or hurricane. However, take a look at them from space and you may have a new appreciation for even those clouds you might consider scary.

The GOES-16 satellite was launched on November of 2016 and while we are approaching a year since this date, the data is still not operational yet. That doesn’t mean we can enjoy some amazing images from the past few months. After all, we’ve never seen 30-second to 1-minute imagery like this before in the US. Here is my top 10 cloud images of the year in chronological order.

My Top 10 List of GOES-16 Images

Snowfall in the Great Lakes: Look closely and you can see snow already on the ground as more falls. Clouds producing snow, in this case, have a soft appearance. Moisture from the Great Lakes often produces Lake-Effect Snow, which is caused when the cold air moves over the warmer water. This extra moisture then causes heavier snow to fall downwind of the shores.

Nor’easters in New England: Short for Northeasters, these are low pressure systems that generally form and track northward along the U.S. East Coast and the Atlantic Coast of Canada. They bring heavy snow and sometimes hurricane force winds. This one is producing some heavy convection in New Jersey.

Yucatan Sea Breeze: During a sea breeze, warm, rising air may form a line of clouds. If conditions are right, thunderstorms may also form. While the warm air doesn’t show up in this image, the effect of it does as storms form and grow moving inland.

Baja Vortices: Air is a fluid, just like water. When it gets disturbed, vortices can form downstream from barriers and along edges of the land. In this view off the coast of Baja California, you can see how Isla Cedros has caused vortices to spin off and continue spreading out as they get farther away. You can also see vortices spinning in the inland coastal area.

Lake Superior Undular Bores: The clouds over Lake Superior resemble waves that form when you drop a pebble in stable water. When talking about the atmosphere, these are known as undular bores. They can form where two air masses of different temperatures collide. In this case, the air over land is warmer than the air over the water.

Great Plain Thunderstorms: This is my top favorite of satellite images in this list. Severe thunderstorms form in the Great Plains and propagate east. Look close and you can see overshooting tops in the convection. While no tornadoes were reported on this date, there were multiple reports of large hail and severe winds.

The Great American Eclipse: Did you travel in August to see the solar eclipse? I did, and it was pretty amazing. As the shadow of the moon traveled across the southeast, temperatures cooled off just enough for these small cumulus clouds to temporarily dissipate.

Hurricane Harvey: Harvey hit the Texas Coast as a major hurricane in late August. Unfortunately for many, Harvey stalled in the Gulf Coast for many days and caused catastrophic flooding. This image shows the weakened hurricane continuing the spin and pull moisture from the Gulf into Houston and the surrounding area.

Hurricane Maria: This devastating, category 5 hurricane hit Puerto Rico head-on in mid-September. Nearly one month later and this US territory is still without power. Along with high winds, record flooding also caused many issues. Looking into this monster’s eye, you see the will developed eyewall. The ripples as the storm spins also show the intensity of Maria.

California Wildfires: Fires have raged in Wine Country of California during October. Caused by the Diablo Winds, dry vegetation, and extreme temperatures, these wildfires have burned thousands of homes and even more thousands of acres. Smoke is visible here as it blows into the Bay Area where it left ash far from the fires and caused hazardous breathing conditions for many.

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