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Five Days of Tornado-Generating Storms as Seen from Space

Satellites help give scientists a big-picture look at severe weather.

Meteorologists use many technologies to gather large amounts of data on the weather. This data helps them model how weather will behave, and they hope more data and better models will allow for more accurate predictions, especially of severe weather.

Among the resources gathering atmospheric data are geostationary (GOES) and polar orbiting satellites (POES), both operated and managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Every 15 minutes, these satellites send back images and readings of Earth’s weather conditions. The images can then be put together, as seen above with the storm system that decimated Joplin, Missouri, giving meteorologists a unique perspective.

The regular stream of incoming data has allowed meteorologists to form more effective mathematical models, though some scientists believe that there may be fixed limits to predicting weather phenomenon.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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