NASA aerosol map shows the beauty of nature’s fury amidst fires and storms

IMAGE: NASA
From a ground-level perspective, blazing wildfires and different varieties of storm are terrifying displays of nature’s might. But viewed from space, through the right (computer-enhanced) eyes, they’re all things of beauty.

On Friday, NASA released a visualization of Earth showing the aerosols that were swirling through our planet’s atmosphere on Aug. 23. It was a busy day for Mother Nature, as you can see.

Aerosols are specks of solids and liquids that swirl through the air we breathe. Most of the time, they’re invisible to the naked eye. But when, say, a fire releases ash into the sky, or when a wind storm blows dust across the desert, those invisible aerosols are made visible.

In NASA’s visualization, you can see how fires and industrial areas, primarily in North America and Africa, released black carbon particles that painted those regions in a reddish-orange haze. Dust storms in Africa and Asia are rendered in purple. And sea salt aerosol kicked up by Pacific cyclones are varying shades of light blue.

According to NASA, the images are produced by Earth-observing satellites that chart (among other things) the ebbs and flows of aerosol in our atmosphere. The imaging model has a mouthful of a name — it’s the Goddard Earth Observing System Forward Processing (GEOS FP for short) — but the results speak for themselves.

This visualization is particularly noteworthy because of all the major weather events that have been happening around the world in recent days.

The dense zone of red/orange concentrated in the western half of North America is a sign of the wildfires that have been raging in that part of the country for large portions of the summer. And in the tropical cyclones, you can get a sense of the weather patterns that led to storms that continue to lash Hawaii even now.