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Hyper Earth: NASA Satellite Visualizations Create Stunning Video

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Numerous satellites in orbit around Earth are collecting data constantly of many different facets of the forces of air and water we all live around and in.

The video "Hyper Earth: the New World in 4k UHD, has put together some of the most stunning animations and visualizations that have been created from the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Global Modeling and Assimilation Office and the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center.

The youtube channel SpaceRip has uploaded a dramatically narrated video that ties these visualizations together. Take a look.

In my desire to double check the facts in the narration, I decided to run this video by one of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's best educators in the internationally well-regarded Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

Eric Snodgrass, who teaches the very popular introductory course Severe and Hazardous Weather, (so popular in fact that it will be offered as MOOC through Coursera in the near future), so kindly provided a brief analysis of the video.

Interesting video! There were a few things in the video that are misleading and scientifically inaccurate but these details would be lost on someone who does not have a strong science education or background.

Here were the problems I saw after watching just once.

1. The narrator calls the eddies that spin up in the Gulf Stream "whirlpools". To many people, this may conjure up images of massive whirlpools like those you see in movies that are capable of sucking down ships and such. The animation then shows these eddies and to a causal observer they look like whirlpools. I would have said they were eddies. This is nit-picky, but it was the first thing that jumped out at me.

2. 2012 did have 19 named storms, but this was not record tying. The record for the number of named storms in the Atlantic is 28 set in 2005.

3. There is a part that says, "Water vapor traps solar energy keeping the Earth warm." This statement is inaccurate. While water vapor can partially absorb near infrared radiation (which is from the sun) this is not how the Earth stays warm. In addition, water vapor is almost transparent to the peak in solar energy, which is visible light. Instead, water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the climate system and is responsible for 50% of the greenhouse effect. It absorbs terrestrial, thermal IR radiation which keeps the Earth warm.

4. There is also the part that says, "CO2 traps enough heat to stabilize water vapor." This is a really misleading part and I am not even sure why they wrote that in there. CO2 is responsible for better than 20% of the greenhouse effect and it does help regulate the Earth's temperature which in turn determines the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, but I have no idea why it was stated that way. I was really confused by this and it totally missed the point I think they were trying to make.

Many thanks to Eric Snodgrass, for input and clarification of the science presented within the video! The video is GOREGEOUS thanks to the advances of satellite imagery and hard work by the folks at NASA. Definitely worth sharing!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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