Swath of Destruction from Deadly Oklahoma Tornado Visible from Space

The tornado that devastated the region around Moore and Newcastle, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013 has been determined to be an EF-5 tornado, the most severe on the enhanced Fujita scale, and has been called one of the most powerful and destructive tornadoes ever recorded. In this new image taken by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, the scar of destruction on the Oklahoma landscape is clearly visible from space. In this false-color infrared image, red highlights vegetation, and the tornado track appears as a beige strip running west to east across this image; the color reveals the lack of vegetation in the wake of the storm.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado was on the ground for 39 minutes, ripping across 17 miles (27 kilometers) from 4.4 miles west of Newcastle to 4.8 miles east of Moore. At its peak, the funnel cloud was 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) wide and wind speeds reached 210 miles (340 km) per hour. The storm killed at least 24 people, injured 377, and affected nearly 33,000 in some way.

In this image, infrared, red, and green wavelengths of light have been combined to better distinguish between water, vegetation, bare ground, and human developments. Water is blue. Buildings and paved surfaces are blue-gray.

You can also see an interactive satellite map from Google and Digital Globe, showing detail of every building that was damaged or destroyed. Satellite data like this are helping to assist in the recovery and rebuilding of the area. Satellite imagery can provide a systematic approach to aiding, monitoring and evaluating the process.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory