All Weather News

Recent Tornado Scars Seen By Satellite

16 Apr 2020, 11:40 am

Original story by Kathryn Hansen 
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens 

The tornado damage from this past weekend’s severe weather outbreak can be clearly seen from ground level. However thousands of miles above Earth, via satellite, the visible scars can be seen across many landscapes. This imagery is from NASA’s Aqua Satellite using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).

Courtesy NASA’s Aqua Satellite using MODIS

Notice how you can see the path of this tornado in Mississippi. This was the EF-4 that was as wide as 2 miles at its widest extent, traveling on the ground for more than 65 miles. The imagery, courtesy the Earth Laboratory of NASA, shows a brown stripe where the tornado’s path ripped the green vegetation away.

NASA’s Aqua Satellite via MODIS

Take for instance the same image, but in infrared mode. This is a remote sensing tool allowing us to examine the radiant heat of objects. In this case, the untouched ground away from the tornado is a brighter orange, representing slightly cooler reflective temperature. On the other hand where the tornado struck, that line appears darker orange and correlates to warmer reflective temperature.

Why would it be hotter in the tornado damage path?

Look to the leaves. Since this tornado was so wide and so strong, it ripped the leaves off vegetation and killed many trees. As a result, those trees and surrounding vegetation are not cooling the air by “transpiration” which is basically evaporation from the leaves, into the air, which usually cools the air slightly.

Related Story: Sunday Tornado Possibly Mississippi’s Widest On Record

Another case example of the recent severe weather outbreak takes us to South Carolina. Here, EF-3 tornado damage was observed by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 Satellite.

This tornado in South Carolina can be more clearly seen when you look at the landscape before the severe weather event.

The EF-3 that hit South Carolina Monday was rare. A tornado of that strength and rating does not happen often in the state, according to Meteorologist Melissa Griffin.

Additional severe weather is expected to occur this weekend, especially on Sunday the 19th of April.

Related Story: Enhanced Severe Risk Returns This Weekend


About the author
Summer of 1993, New England Dragway. That's when and where Steve knew he wanted to become a meteorologist. More than 20 years later he is extremely fortunate and blessed to be able to live his childhood dream. As a lover of math and science, Steve had a consistent interest in weather in elementary, middle, and high school before discovering you can major in meteorology. He attended Lyndon State Co... Load Morellege in Vermont where he received a bachelor's in meteorology-broadcasting and associate's in television news. He has worked as a meteorologist and reporter in Winchester, VA, Burlington, VT, and most recently in West Palm Beach, FL. He's recognized by the American Meteorological Society with the Certification of Broadcast Meteorologists.