Phenomena

The Earth in Infrared

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The motions of Earth’s atmosphere are often invisible to the human eye, but fortunately, we’ve built tools to reveal them. This timelapse video shows the Earth in infrared light, first from a satellite view centered on the Pacific Ocean and second from a satellite centered on Central America. The water vapor in clouds is an excellent insulator, so clouds appear dark in this video. Warmer areas look brighter. The large-scale motion of the atmosphere and the wind bands that cut east and west across the world are apparent in the first half of the video, largely because they are not being interrupted by any land masses. In the second half of the video, the western coast of South America is intermittently visible. This is because the Andes Mountains disrupt air flow, pushing warm, moist air upward and causing it to condense into the dark-colored clouds that recirculate over the Amazon. Look further south along the coast and you’ll see the Atacama Desert flashing white each day as it heats up.  (Video credit: J. Tyrwhitt-Drake/NASA; submitted by entropy-perturbation)

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