Down with the topmast! yare! lower, lower! Bring her to try with main-course.

Figure 1 – NASA’s Aqua satellite captured infrared temperature data on Hurricane Irma on Sept. 8 at 2:29 a.m. EDT (0629 UTC). The image showed very cold cloud top temperatures colder than minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius) in the storm, stretching over Hispaniola, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.
Credits: NASA JPL/Ed Olsen

“I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he
hath no drowning mark upon him; his complexion is
perfect gallows. Stand fast, good Fate, to his
hanging: make the rope of his destiny our cable,
for our own doth little advantage. If he be not
born to be hanged, our case is miserable.”

William Shakespeare “The Tempest (1623)

We are all now glued to the news, television and internet, watching cliched, yet iconic images from Southern Florida. It is like the storm in Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” which was meant to take place in Bermuda. But hurricane Irma is not conjured up by any wizard Prospero, as much as it seems along with the California wildfires and hurricane Harvey to be the wrath of nature. Global warming has turned up the heat and more so the oceanic storms boil violently.

I thought it appropriate to share an image of Irma today and knew just where to look – on the NASA website. It is a frightening gallery, yet in an eerie way so beautiful – the violence of the storm shown in so many different ways. But what struck me as the image that was so frighteningly beautiful and at the same time heuristic was an image taken on September 8 at 2:29 am EDT. Figure 1 was taken with the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite. This is a thermal camera and what you see are the temperatures of the cloud tops in the upper atmosphere. See the scale on the top of the image. Churning, churning, churning. It captures the very energy, gigantic convective waves, of the storm driven by the ocean temperatures. The eye is so well-formed and the darkest clouds above the strongest thundershowers are colder than  minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius).

These are truly the engines of destruction. And we have turned up the power. Back in May, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said: “I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”  OK, but we may remember the famous quote from English political theorist Algernon Sidney:God helps those who help themselves.” Famously, Benjamin Franklin later used it in his Poor Richard’s Almanack (1736).

The tempest is so like the looming clouds above NYC’s West Side in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters. Who you gonna call, people? I suspect that there will be no defeated Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Gozer will not be vanquished, and we will awake in the morning to the same old terrifying memetic images of destruction.

This entry was posted in History of Photography, Reviews and Critiques.