scary faces on satellite images!

Skulls, evil-looking smileys, and faces screaming with terror sometimes made meteorologists tremble behind their computer screens. On the occasion of Halloween, Futura offers you an anthology of the most frightening weather appearances of recent years.

There are many completely natural weather phenomena that appear supernatural to novice observers, such as the Brocken spectrum, the pillars of light, the lunar corona, the white rainbow or the skypunch. But the weather can also appear paranormal seen from satellite images, and sometimes on weather forecast models.

Hurricane Matthew’s Skull

Number 1 of the scariest faces to appear on satellite images, the famous skull and crossbones from Hurricane Matthew, captured on October 4, 2016 off the coast of Haiti. These colorful images from NASA are taken from a video showing the winding of this hurricane and its eye: all that was needed was a freeze frame and a photo capture, at the right time by a meteorologist from the American weather channel, so that this image goes around the world.

The white dots that look like the skull’s teeth are probably thunderstorms. This frightening picture presaged a catastrophic sequel: Hurricane Matthew reached category 5 (maximum) with winds at 260 km / h and ravaged several islands. Unfortunately, it sowed death in its path, claiming more than 600 victims, the vast majority in Haiti.

The screaming face of the heat wave in France

During the historic heat wave of June 2019, even the weather models seemed to lose their heads in the face of such high temperatures. This screenshot of the GFS model from the Meteociel site shows the expected heat a week later, on June 27, 2019.

The screaming face that appears on the card is strangely reminiscent of that of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. Weather forecasters probably cried out when they saw the heat predicted by the model: June 27, 2019 was finally the hottest day recorded for a month of June over the period 1900-2019 in France, with a national average temperature 27.9°C (8.6°C above normal).

It was also the next day, June 28, 2019, that the absolute heat record in France was beaten, with 46 ° C recorded in Vérargues in the Hérault. There was indeed enough to scream in terror! The eyes and mouth of the face are actually delineated as the hottest areas in France that day, using the temperature forecast at 1,500 meters above sea level.

The evil smiley of two tropical phenomena

The 2020 hurricane season was marked by a record number of phenomena: 31 in all, including 14 hurricanes. On September 22, 2020, NOAA satellite images revealed between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico two eyes, and a gigantic smile below.

It is actually Tropical Depression Beta which extends from Texas to Florida in the United States and Hurricane Teddy on the Canadian coast. Between the two, the smile is in fact a front (a disturbance) generated by the instability of the two phenomena. Beta brought heavy rain and flooding to the southern United States. Hurricane Teddy, meanwhile, reached category 4 with winds of 220 km / h at sea, before generating strong waves along the Antilles and Canada.

Through clouds, but also satellite images and maps from forecasting models, the weather is one of the main sources of visual pareidolia, an ability of our brain to spot human faces everywhere.


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