Surfing from Space - Weather Satellites and You

Satellite imagery is a great way to SEE how the weather systems are developing and moving. The images also make for great eye-candy These images come from satellites which remain above a fixed point on the Earth (i.e. they are "geostationary"). The infrared image shows the invisible infrared radiation emitted directly by cloud tops and land or ocean surfaces. The warmer an object is, the more intensely it emits radiation, thus allowing us to determine its temperature. These intensities can be converted into greyscale tones, with cooler temperatures showing as lighter tones and warmer as darker.

Lighter areas of cloud show where the cloud tops are cooler and therefore where weather features like fronts and shower clouds are. The advantage of infrared images is that they can be recorded 24 hours a day. However, low cloud, having similar temperatures to the underlying surface, are less easily discernable. Coast-lines and lines of latitude and longitude have been added to the images and they have been altered to northern polar stereographic projection. The infrared images are updated every six hours with the 0000, 0600, 1200 and 1800 UTC images. It usually takes about 20 minutes for these images to be processed and be updated on the website. The time shown on the image is in UTC.