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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 6:57am.
It was a quiet day for the most part around the area, but that doesn't mean we can't see some fascinating images from space. Last night, the Visible Satellite loop in Wilmington was certainly a sight to see - and a little bit of a lesson in meteorology as well.
An Unbelievable Satellite Loop
On hot, humid summer days - we almost always see the sea-breeze set up along the coast. It starts out at the beaches. As the land beings to heat up in the morning, it's temperature rises and pressure falls. The cool air over the ocean then begins to rush onshore, setting up a circulation. As the temperature difference between land and sea increases, the strength of the sea-breeze increases - and these stronger winds push the sea-breeze farther inland during the course of the afternoon.
Here's an image of the sea-breeze clearly set-up around 3pm yesterday afternoon. Notice how you can see the clouds forming right along the boundary between the cooler ocean air and the inland heat.
Fast forward a few hours, and you will see the sea-breeze has made it even farther inland, into Robeson, Bladen, and Duplin Counties. Now that it's 5:00, a lot of the clouds are dying down as the heating of the day decreases. You also get a hint at a thunderstorm forming near Fayetteville - keep an eye on that.
Heading into 6:30, the sea-breeze clouds have largely dissipated, but that cooler air is still interacting with the hot inland temperatures which were into the 90's. We're finding one isolated thunderstorm start to form, and gathering strength. If you look closely, you can see how tall the cloud is becoming.
This next image is just awesome. About 30 minutes have passed since the last image, and now that cloud is soaring about 20,000 feet into the atmosphere - towering straight up into the sky.
This last image around 7:45 just before sunset, is really very impressive. You can see the cloud has continued to grow and is easily 30-40,000 feet tall. The setting sun is casting an enormous shadow that can be seen all the way to the coast. In fact, here in Wilmington you could see the towering cloud in the western sky - even though it was on the other side of I-95.
This storm was severe, and produced some hail over an inch in diameter with some damaging wind gusts. It just goes to show you how even on a day that may be 95% quiet, these sea-breeze boundaries can hit the right spot at the right time, and spark quite a thunderstorm. Pretty cool for us we were able to see it in such a neat way.
A City Nearly Leveled
One quick note - it's hard to imagine, but it looks as if it's happened again. Another tragic tornado has all virtually leveled portions of a city -- this time Joplin, Missouri. We won't know the extent of the damage for several days, but at first glance - it looks like it's every bit as worse as what we saw less than one month ago in Tuscaloosa.
Here's an image of the velocity field from the storm. You can see the yellows and reds right next to the blues and greens - a picture perfect textbook tornado signature. This storm was a monster.
Right now, we have no idea the scope of the damage - other than the fact that it is devastating. The images you see from this storm speak for themselves -- and just re-emphasize the importance of keeping yourself informed and being storm ready. Know where to go if a tornado is headed your way, and please please please purchase a weather radio and turn it on. It could easily save your life.
Enjoy that summer weather out there!
By: Tim Buckley