NASA satellite imagery of the Severe Tornado Outbreak in the Southern United States
t the southern United States on on Wednesday, April 27 at 1:45pm CDT as the tornado outbreak was exploding. Credit: NASA
The worst tornado outbreak in more than 35 years struck the South this week claiming at least 300 lives across six states. From their perch 22,000 miles above the Earth, NASA satellites captured astounding images of the event as it was at its peak.
While Tornado Alley may be well-known to many Americans, Dixie Alley has historically proven to be an equally dangerous area of the nation prone to tornadoes. Weather events over the past two weeks have shown why this lesser-known region suffers more tornado deaths as its better known sibling.
The outbreak that occurred beginning on Wednesday, April 27th was forecast well in advance prompting the Storm Prediction Center to issue a high risk for the region leading up to the event. The stage was set for a classic collision of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico with cold, stable air from the north.
The images released by NASA were captured by the GOES East satellite, operated jointly with NOAA. This geostationary satellite keeps its eyes trained on the same location on Earth at all times.
An image captured by the satellite (top left) shows the storms on Wednesday at 1:45pm CDT just as they were starting to explode. Towering thunderstorms can be seen forming in Arkansas and moving across Alabama, Tennessee and the northwest corner of Georgia.
Joining together a series of images allowed NASA to create an animation showing the evolution of the storm system from beginning to end. Beginning on the morning of April 26th and continuing through the morning of April 28th, storms start in western Texas and then move to the east wreaking havoc as they do.
Satellite imagery from NASA, NOAA and other providers are essential elements of not only forecasting significant events such as this week’s outbreak, but they also are useful in assessments after the fact. In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan two months ago, satellite imagery from NASA and Google helped the world to better understand the extent of the devastation.