The most famous image of Earth is one taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on their way to the Moon in 1972. Not only is it a beautiful picture, but it was the first time many people had ever seen an actual photo of our full planet. Fast forward a few decades, and we can see that view every day. Here’s your world today—as seen by satellites floating around in orbit—in all of its watery wonder.

Here’s Your World Today is an occasional feature that explains the various weather features seen on satellite imagery around the world. Today’s post features a visible image of the Americas from GOES 13’s 17:45 UTC sweep, an infrared image of Africa and Europe via EUMETSAT at 19:00 UTC, and an infrared image of the Eastern Hemisphere from Japan’s HIMAWARI-8 satellite at 19:30 UTC.

The image at the top of this post depicts a true-color image of the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean on Saturday morning (Friday afternoon here) as seen by Japan’s HIMAWARI-8 satellite.

A) Ignacio Imminent

This swirly mass of clouds off the west coast of Mexico is quickly getting its act together, and it’s likely to become a tropical depression or tropical storm by this time tomorrow. If/when it becomes a tropical storm, its name will be Ignacio. The latest run of the GFS model doesn’t seem to develop it much beyond a weak tropical storm, but its location and the time of the year means that any interests in Mexico need to keep a close eye on the system over the next couple of days.

B) Dead Atlantic

The Atlantic Ocean is dead quiet as our below-normal hurricane season chugs along without much to talk about. Dry air through the atmosphere, unfavorable upper-level winds, and dust blowing off of Africa are joining forces to kill any tropical cyclone development in the ocean basin for now. There might be a little something to watch in a couple of days—see item G below—but it’s a low chance and a long way away.

C) Upwelling

See the abrupt clearing over the west coast of Chile? That’s caused by upwelling. Cold water from deep in the Pacific Ocean hits the side of the continent and rises to the surface, creating lowering sea surface temperatures in this part of the Pacific. This chilly water kills convection, clearing the region of puffy clouds and leaving the adjacent land devoid of precipitation. That adjacent land is the Atacama Desert, by the way, and it’s so arid that it’s often used as a simulation of the surface of Mars.

D) Intertropical Convergence Zone

This persistent band of showers and thunderstorms near the Equator over the Atlantic Ocean is known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, more commonly called the ITCZ for short. Instability from warm, humid air and the interaction of winds from the northern and southern hemisphere create pretty regular storms in this region of the ocean. Flights between South America and Europe have to fly through the ITCZ, producing uncomfortable turbulence at the least, but very rarely it can be dangerous. The icing that triggered the events that caused the crash of Air France 447—a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris—was likely caused by the aircraft flying through the top of thunderstorms in the ITCZ.

E) Dust

The fuzzy, tannish color hanging over the west coast of Africa is an enormous area of dust and sand suspended in the atmosphere. This floating desert will slowly start to make its way over the Atlantic Ocean over the next week, eventually reaching the Caribbean by the middle of next week. If you’re going to be in the area next week, depending on its concentration, the dust in the atmosphere should make sunrises and sunsets more colorful than usual.

F) Hudson Bay

There’s still a little bit of ice on the southern part of Hudson Bay. Happy August!

G) Tropical Waves

As we typically see during this time of the year, there are a series of tropical waves making their way toward the Atlantic from sub-Saharan Africa. Almost every significant hurricane that’s spun-up in the Atlantic forms from one of these waves, starting life as a tropical cyclone near the Cape Verde Islands.

The wave just coming off the coast looks pretty healthy, and the latest run of the GFS model has it maintaining some composure as it heads west toward the Caribbean. The National Hurricane Center doesn’t mention it in their outlooks, and environmental conditions aren’t really favorable for development, but it’s a good reminder that we’re creeping toward the peak of hurricane season, and that even though it’s a slow year, it only takes one storm to make a mess.

H) Daily Thunderstorms

A common sight through the wet season, the full-disk image shows pop-up thunderstorms across the rainforests of central Africa. This part of central Africa sees the highest frequency of lightning strikes of any other region on Earth.

I) Nice in Europe

Showers and thunderstorms are parked over western Europe right now, but overall, it’s pretty darn nice for August by American standards. Paris, for instance, can expect sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s and low 80s for the foreseeable future. The heat wave that’s gripped eastern Europe should also start to wane soon, so more good news across the pond.

Fall is just around the corner, so temperatures will cool off here in the States pretty soon.

J) Twin Tropical Cyclones

Two tropical cyclones out in the Pacific Ocean are gearing up to be the biggest weather story on Earth for the next couple of days. Both were just upgraded to tropical storms just before the publication of this post. The westernmost system is Tropical Storm Goni and the one to its east is Tropical Storm Atsani.

Tropical Storm Goni will slowly strengthen over the next few days as it crosses the Northern Marianas Islands, becoming a strong typhoon as it heads in the general direction of the northern Philippines.

Tropical Storm Atsani is also expected to become a strong typhoon as it heads northwest, not posing much of a threat to land.

Goni is the one to watch, so if you live in Guam or the CNMI (or know anyone who does), keep an eye on this storm over the next few days.

Full Sunrise Picture

Here’s a full view of the image at the top of this post, showing a true-color image of the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean, as seen by Japan’s HIMAWARI-8 satellite.

Blue Marble

Remember the Blue Marble image? The picture as you know it is a lie. The original photograph was taken “upside-down”—with Antarctica on top and northern Africa on the bottom—but NASA just flipped it over to better match the public’s perception of how the world is situated. Ask C.J. Cregg about that.


You can follow the author on Twitter or send him an email.

If you enjoy The Vane (of course you do!), then you’ll love the author’s new book—The Extreme Weather Survival Manual—which is available for pre-order on Amazon and comes out on October 6.