Oklahoma Tornado: Satellites see Storm from Space

Tornado in Oklahoma, USA, captured from space by NASA's Aqua satellite
Tornado in Oklahoma, USA, captured from space by NASA's Aqua satellite
Credits: NASA

On May 20, 2013 central Oklahoma, USA, was hit by a supercell thunderstorm resulting in a destructive tornado passing over the state. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image of the storm system at 2:40 p.m. Central Daylight Time (19:40 Universal Time), just minutes before the devastating twister began.

The NASA Earth Observation experts explain: "The red line on the image depicts the tornado’s track. It touched down west of Newcastle at 2:56 p.m. and moved northeast toward Moore, where it caused dozens of deaths, hundreds of injuries, and widespread destruction to property and public buildings. The tornado had dissipated by 3:36 p.m., after traveling approximately 17 to 20 miles (27 to 32 kilometers)."

The GOES-13 satellite of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) also spotted the developing storm from space. Acquired at 2:55 CT on May 20, 2013, the satellite image shows the storms developing directly over central Oklahoma. One minute later an incredibly destructive tornado touched down in the city of Moore, killing dozens and leaving the town utterly destroyed.

In a time-lapse video, the GOES data can be viewed between the time span of 10:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. local time on May 20, 2013: