Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NASA Space-based Images of Alabama Tornadoes

A combination of Visible and IR data of the EF-4 tornado track through Alabama.  Vegetation appears as pink, while teal shows the absence of Vegetation.  The giant swath going from lower left to upper right was the EF-4 tornado.
In an attempt to help the victims of the Alabama tornadoes, NASA has been investigating using its network of Earth sensing satellites to help define areas affected by tornadoes.  This is the first time NASA has attempted to use this specific instrument, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), to characterize tornado damage.  The picture above is a combination of a visible image and an infrared (IR) image.  The combination helps to define areas affected by determining where there is live vegetation.  This is especially useful in remote and rural areas.

Why would they be interested in doing this?  Well, it turns out that insurance companies use the National Weather Service data to determine whether or not someone has been effected by severe weather.  If you are in a remote area, where there may not be a lot of weather stations, your claim may not be accepted as part of the damage from a given storm.  (Or, that is the story I have been told. Someone out there is free to comment and clear up any misunderstanding I may have).  So, next time you might be tempted to think what has NASA, or for that matter Earth science, done to help regular folks, you can think of this story.

Read more about this story here: Unique Space Image of Alabama Tornado Tracks

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