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Oklahoma Tornado on May 20, 2013 As Seen from Space

Satellite Image of Oklahoma Tornado. Acquired at 2:55 CT on May 20, 2013, this image from the NOAA GOES-13 satellite shows the storms developing directly over central Oklahoma. One minute later an incredibly destructive tornado touched down in Moore, OK. Credit: NOAA.

Satellite Image of Oklahoma Tornado. Acquired at 2:55 CT on May 20, 2013, this image from the NOAA GOES-13 satellite shows the storms developing directly over central Oklahoma. One minute later an incredibly destructive tornado touched down in Moore, OK. Credit: NOAA.

The massive tornado that tore through parts of Oklahoma on My 20, 2013 left a 32 km (20-mile) swath of destruction and death, with winds approaching 320 km/hr (200 mph). The US National Weather Service said the 3 km (2-mile)-wide tornado spent 40 minutes on the ground in the area of Moore, Oklahoma, outside of Oklahoma City, destroying schools, a hospital and hundreds of homes, killing dozens of people. Satellite images and video show how the storm developed.

Below is a video showing satellite imagery from the GOES 13 satellite from May 19-20, 2013. It shows the tornado outbreak and supercell thunderstorms that developed across portions of the Great Plains:

Weather satellites help scientists to observe weather patterns from the unique vantage point of space. This provides the ability to see a larger area of the Earth rather than with conventional radar which does not reveal a true overview of cloud structure and wind patterns.

These satellites can measure many different things, such as in the image below, which looks at water vapor content of the clouds. The satellites operated by NASA and NOAA and are equipped to send back images in infrared and other wavelengths, providing snapshots of things like the water vapor measurements, temperatures, wind patterns, cloud coverage, storm movement and many other readings. This information also helps with the prediction of storms, allowing for warnings for people to seek shelter from potentially destructive weather events.

This screenshot shows a false color view of the water vapor content in the clouds during the tornado outbreak in Oklahoma on May 20, 2013, as seen from NOAA geostationary (GOES) satellites. Click on image to go to current NOAA imagery.

This screenshot shows a false color view of the water vapor content in the clouds during the tornado outbreak in Oklahoma on May 20, 2013, as seen from NOAA geostationary (GOES) satellites. Click on image to go to current NOAA imagery.

The news from Oklahoma is ongoing, and we encourage you to keep current on the latest information from other news sites. But as Phil Plait pointed out, if you are interested in helping the people involved in this tragedy, the Take Part website has a list of organizations that are in the area providing support.

This full-disk view of Earth shows the formation of the Oklahoma tornado, from the Aqua satellite. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

This full-disk view of Earth shows the formation of the Oklahoma tornado, from the Aqua satellite. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

You can see more images from Oklahoma tornado at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Flickr page.

Sources: Marshall Space Flight Center Earth Science office, NOAA Satellite Information office, NOAA website, National Weather Service

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lord Haw-Haw. May 21, 2013, 6:53 PM

    It was heart wrenching to observe the traumatized school children, in their formative years what impression will this natural disaster make of their allegedly safe World around them? Thank goodness for counseling and after-care services. Technology on the ground and the skies above us as Nancy’s article highlights alleviated a far greater casualty toll.

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