Normally, we see storms as clouds and rain, but there’s invisible power lurking inside. This amazing satellite shot shows that hidden chaos in the form of gravity waves, blasting out from a storm’s centre like ripples in a pond.
Tropical Cyclone Mahasen, which you can see off to the right there, is heading through the Indian Ocean, due to make landfall in Bangladesh today. But on May 13, the Suomi NPP satellite caught a unique picture of Mahasen off the coast with its VIIRS Day-Night Band camera.
The dash of light you can make out is actually the lightning flashes from the centre of the storm, and the waves spreading outwards are gravity waves — ripples in both the water and the air above it — bursting out from the storm’s core. And because of the moon’s new phase, the clouds that would ordinarily cover this up are practically invisible to the camera’s infrared gaze. It may look like a little dropped in a puddle, but those are giant ripples you don’t want to be near.