Label: Hurricanes

May 20, 2013

The Cassini spacecraft continues to send back simply extraordinary photographs of Saturn. The latest is an image of an enormous hurricane currently raging at Saturn’s north pole. The eye - just the eye - of this hurricane stretches 1,250 miles (2,000 km) across. That is the length of the entire West Coast of the United States - from the southern tip of California all the way up to the Canadian border.  

Scientists don’t know how long this hurricane has been in existence, because when Cassini arrived the north pole was covered in winter darkness (a year on Saturn lasts 29 Earth years). But now that it is light, we can see this huge storm which seems very similar to, though much bigger than what we call a hurricane here on Earth.

This photograph is false-color, by the way. That means that color has been added to the original image to help us see the details.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Solar System, Hurricanes, Saturn   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 21, 2012

I can hardly bring myself to call this the "Cool Photo of the Week." It is more like the ASTOUNDING photo of the week!

This shipwreck was long buried under the sand dunes on Fire Island - a barrier island off Long Island, New York. The force of Hurricane Sandy completely reconfigured the beaches of Fire Island, and exposed the bones of this wrecked schooner.

Park rangers think that it is the wreck of the Bessie White, which ran aground off Fire Island in either 1919 or 1922 - almost 100 years ago! The Bessie White was a four-mast Canadian schooner, went aground in heavy fog. The crew and the ship’s cat escaped in lifeboats, but they couldn’t save the ship or the tons of coal that it was carrying.

Seeing the sand rearranged to the point that this buried shipwreck is revealed really gives you an idea of how strong the winds and surf are during a hurricane. 


Photo: Cheryl Hapke, USGS 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Oceans, Cool Photo, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 2, 2012

I am relieved, grateful and aware that we were extremely lucky in the aftermath of the Hurricane Sandy superstorm that has devastated communities all around us. We don’t expect to have power back for quite some time in my neighborhood, but amazingly, though there are downed trees all around us, our house was untouched. We were very, very fortunate, and our hearts ache for our friends and neighbors throughout the Northeast who are struggling to recover from terrible losses.


In the midst of all this sobering news, I was so happy to receive this update today from  the staff at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. They wrote:  

Although Hurricane Sandy did a number on our Center in South Salem, NY, everyone is safe and sound. Dozens of enormous trees fell victim to the storm’s powerful winds, tearing down several fences in their fall. Although several enclosures were compromised, the wolves remained safe and contained during the powerful storm.

And so the rebuilding begins. 


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 29, 2012

Here are a few reasons why weather forecasters are so worried about Hurricane Sandy, nicknamed Frankenstorm. 


  • Sandy is a very large hurricane, one of the largest ever to strike the United States mainland. Instead of having winds and rain a few hundred miles across, Sandy is much bigger. That means many more millions of people are going to experience high winds, heavy rains and powerful storm surges along the coast.
  • Sandy is a very slow moving storm. It will stay around for days rather than hours.
  • Sandy is not weakening as it reaches the coast. It’s expected to join forces with cold air masses and become a hybrid storm like a Frankenstein Monster Storm or "Frankenstorm."
  • Sandy arrives on the coast during a full moon, the highest tides of the month. Sandy’s winds combine with the high tides could push tidal waters 11 feet higher than normal.
  • Sandy will bring in cold air and snow as well as wind and rain. Cold air will join with the warm air of a tropical storm and bring snow as well as wind and rain. So the problems of cold weather storms and warm weather storms are wrapped into one.
  • Sandy is likely to affect New York City, the nation’s largest city. That’s bad news for a city whose many subway tunnels are lower than the surrounding ocean waters.


All in all, Sandy the Frankenstorm is no joke. It’s a dangerous storm that may turn out to be the worst in the history of the Northeast United States.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 29, 2012

FrankenStorm, the monster storm that is about to move into the NorthEast is not a joke. Damaging winds, heavy rains, downed power lines and major flooding are almost inevitable in the next few days. This hurricane has the potential to be one of the most destructive storms in history.

There are things that you and your family can do to prepare in advance. One of the most important is to listen to local news on the radio, TV and the Internet. Follow the advice and instructions that you get from local authorities. Better to be safe than sorry.

If you are going to stay home then it’s a good idea to prepare a basic disaster supply kit. Here’s some of things it should contain:


  • Water, a gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation.
  • Battery powered or hand crank radio with extra batteries.
  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • Whistle to signal for help if need be.
  • Manual (not electric) can opener for cans of food.
  • Cell phone with a charger that doesn’t depend upon local electricity.
  • Books, games, puzzles and other activities for youngsters.
  • Medicines and other personal supplies.


Be calm and safe. It’s always just best to be prepared for the worst, even though you hope nothing bad actually happens. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 30, 2011

As Hurricane Irene exited the scene she left a crisp, cool, pre-autumn day here in the Northeast. I worked at my desk all day on a new book, and then decided that I would like to get some exercise before dinner. I went to the driving range to hit some golf balls…..and discovered a beautiful Great Egret picking its way through puddles of water on long spindly legs!

The owner told me that the entire field was under water after the storm, and as the flood from the nearby river receded, his 10-year-old daughter Starsea found crawfish in the puddles. That makes sense. Great Egrets (also known as White Herons) are wading birds that eat fish, crustaceans (shell fish) and small reptiles, like frogs. They stalk their prey in shallow water, running or shuffling their feet to flush their prey into view. 

Once the field dries out, these water birds will make their way back to the nearby lake, and soon they will be flying south for the winter. And we’ll get our driving range back for hitting golf balls!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Cool Photo, Hurricanes, Hurricane Irene   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 29, 2011

Don’t pay any attention to people who are saying that government officials over-reacted by urging us all to prepare for Hurricane Irene. The past 48 hours were a textbook example of the value of good preparation. This was a massive, slow-moving storm, and forecasters correctly predicted days in advance that the problem would be huge amounts of rain and flooding, rather than wind. Many, many more lives could have been lost had people not heeded orders to evacuate the areas that have been flooded by rivers and streams overflowing their banks.

Meteorologists did an amazing job of predicting this particular storm’s path. Retired National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield described it as a "gold medal forecast. I don’t think there’s any doubt," he said. "I think they saved lives." By Tuesday night, they predicted that Hurricane Irene would rake the coast. And on Friday morning - 24 hours before landfall - they accurately predicted the storm’s next day location to within 10 miles. That is extraordinarily accurate.

The main reason that meteorology (the science of predicting weather) is getting more accurate is that we are building better computer models, and scientists are also getting more and better data to plug into those models. As Hurricane Irene formed in the Caribbean, days before it made landfall in the US, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) sent up old-fashioned propeller planes and weather balloons into the storm. They gathered Doppler radar information, which was then plugged into computer models that helped to predict how the storm would be develop.

Twenty years ago, 24-hour forecasts were lucky if they got it right within 100 miles. With Irene, that was about the accuracy of the forecast five days ahead of the storm. The more we learn about hurricanes, the better our chances of staying safe.


Photo: GLENN RUSSELL, Burlington Free Press

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Weather, Hurricanes, Hurricane Irene   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 26, 2011


If you live on the East Coast of the United States, you have been hearing warnings for the last several days to get prepared for Hurricane Irene. There are lots of things that need to be done that kids can help with. Hurricane preparation is a family affair!

Here are some things you can do:


  • Walk outside and look for anything that might be blown around in a strong wind - an innocent toy or lawn chair can become a missile that breaks windows or causes injury when it’s caught up in an 80 mile per hour wind! Things that should be brought inside include: bicycles, skateboards, toys, garbage cans, sprinklers, watering cans, toys, garden tools, lawn furniture, umbrellas, recycling bins. Anything that can fly around should be brought indoors.
  • Help your family locate all the flashlights in the house, and put them all in one place, so you can find them easily if the lights go out. Check each to see if they are working, or if the batteries need to be replaced. Make a list of what kind of batteries each one needs, and how many. (You should buy double that number, so that you have backups).
  • Your family is going to need to do some extra food shopping. You can help to carry the bags and put the food away when you get home.
Pick out a favorite "read aloud" book, and put it in the "safe room" (the basement or interior room, with no windows) where your family will all gather together during the storm. When the electricity is out and there is no television or computer, it’s a great time for the whole family to read a story together, by flashlight! 
  • If your family lives in an area that may be evacuated, pack your backpack with a set of clean clothes and three sets of clean underwear. Put in your favorite toy or book, your toothbrush and a comb or brush. That way you are ready to go when the time comes.
  • FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a very good website with a checklist for preparing for a hurricane. Go to that website and print out the list, so that you can help your family to know everything that they need to get ready for the storm. 

ONE VERY IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ALL KIDS: After the hurricane passes, the area where you live may be flooded. Don’t go out and play in the water. Flooded areas are dangerous. Rapidly moving water even less than a foot deep can sweep you away. And, water may also be electrically charged from downed or damaged power lines. If you are in the street and see water, turn around and go the other way!

FOR FAMILIES WITH PRESCHOOLERS: It can be very difficult to explain big events like hurricanes to very little kids. My friends and former colleagues at Sesame Street have a great "hurricane toolkit" that includes video, and it’s free for any family who wants to use it. Click on the graphic to find these excellent materials.



Being prepared makes big storms less scary, and helps to keep people safe. 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Summer Vacation Science, Weather, Hurricanes, Hurricane Irene   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 26, 2011

With all the talk on the news about preparation for Hurricane Irene, a lot of you may be wondering what makes hurricanes such a big deal. Hurricanes are the world’s worst storms. That is surprising to some people, since tornadoes have much stronger winds that sometimes get as high as 300 miles (483 km) per hour. Hurricane winds rarely blow at even half that speed - in fact, a tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds exceed just 74 miles (119 km) per hour.

So why are hurricanes (called "typhoons" in the North Pacific and "cyclones" in the Indian Ocean) the world’s deadliest storms?

A tornado is usually less than a mile (1.6km) wide on the ground, and lasts for less than an hour. So while a tornado causes a great deal of destruction, only a limited area is affected. A hurricane affects a much, much larger area. Even a small hurricane is hundreds of miles wide, and it can last for days or even weeks. In a single day, a large hurricane releases energy that is equal to two hundred times the amount of electricity generated on the entire planet. These are powerful storms!


Hurricane Irene is a particularly large and dangerous storm - nearly 600 miles (1000 km) wide at the time this photograph was taken by NASA’s Terra satellite. You can see bands of thunderstorms spiraling tightly around a dense center. That is the circular shape of a well-developed hurricane.  

The most important thing, when a hurricane is approaching, is to be prepared. If you are in an area that is subject to coastal flooding, you must heed the warnings of local government officials and evacuate when they tell you to. If you are not in a flood zone, there are many things you should do to prepare for not only the storm itself, but also for at least three days without electricity and water. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a good checklist on their website.

To get the latest local information about the approaching storm, go to any Internet search engine, and type in "[your county] [your state] emergency management." That will give you a link for the Office of Emergency Management for your area, where you will find up-to-date information and phone numbers to help you get information about how the storm will affect your area.

We have learned a lot about hurricanes in recent years, and as our weather forecasting software, warning systems and emergency planning get better, we are saving lives. The more we learn about hurricanes, the better our chances of staying safe.


I updated my book HURRICANES in 2007, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, becoming the costlest and most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. You can learn more about the science behind hurricanes, and see many incredible photographs of these powerful forces of nature.  

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Summer Vacation Science, Weather, Hurricanes, Hurricane Irene   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 4, 2010

Take a look at this great satellite photo of the beginning of a hurricane. Tropical Storm Colin became the third named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season yesterday morning as it strengthened from a tropical depression to a tropical storm. You can see that although the cloud formation hints at the spiral shape characteristic of hurricanes, it doesn’t (yet) have a distinct eye. The photo comes from the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) at NASA’s Earth Observatory. Photography buffs may be interested in knowing that the natural color image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Weather, Hurricanes, NASA   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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