"New images from a recently launched radar satellite show the promise of providing unprecedented views inside storms all around the globe.
NASA's new CloudSat satellite reveals never-before-seen details of both the clouds and precipitation within a storm, from the Earth's surface to 19 miles high.
"We're seeing the atmosphere as we've never seen it before," said Deborah Vane, CloudSat deputy principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We're no longer looking at clouds like images on a flat piece of paper, but instead we're peering into the clouds and seeing their layered complexity."
The early images are test runs only, but already researchers are excited.
'Breathtaking new views'
"Although the data are still very preliminary, it provided breathtaking new views of the weather on our planet," said Graeme Stephens, CloudSat principal investigator and a professor at Colorado State University. "All major cloud system types were observed, and the radar demonstrated its ability to penetrate through almost all but the heaviest rainfall.
CloudSat's first image (http://www.livescience.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=060606_cloudsat_A_02.jpg&cap=CloudSat%27s+first+image%2C+of+a+warm+front+storm+over+the+Norwegian+Sea%2C+was+obtained+on+May+20%2C+2006.+Top+image+shows+the+area+covered.+Bottom+image+is+a+horizontal+cross-section+of+clouds%2C+warm+air+seen+rising+over+colder+air.+Red+%3D+rain+or+ice+crystals%3B+blue+%3D+thinner+clouds+%28such+as+cirrus%29%3B+green+%3D+horizon.+Shows+the+atmosphere+to+19+altitude.+Image+credit%3A+NASA%2FJPL%2FThe+Cooperative+Institute+for+Research+in+the+Atmosphere+%28CIRA%29%2C+Colorado+State+University+) peered inside a warm storm front over the North Sea in the North Atlantic approaching Greenland. Another shows high-rising thunderstorms (http://www.livescience.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=060606_cloudsat_B_02.jpg&cap=CloudSat+image+of+a+horizontal+cross-section+of+tropical+clouds+and+thunderstorms+over+east+Africa.+Top+image+shows+the+area+covered.+Bottom+image+is+a+horizontal+cross-section+of+clouds%2C+warm+air+seen+rising+over+colder+air.+Red+%3D+rain+or+ice+crystals%3B+blue+%3D+thinner+clouds+%28such+as+cirrus%29%3B+green+%3D+horizon.+Shows+the+atmosphere+to+19+altitude.+Image+credit%3A+NASA%2FJPL%2FThe+Cooperative+Institute+for+Research+in+the+Atmosphere+%28CIRA%29%2C+Colorado+State+University+) in Africa. "