SSEC Image in Top Ten of Scientific “Cool” List

April 25, 2013 | Mark Hobson

Let us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, the poetry of their subjects.                                                                      Herbert Spencer

When scientific data is translated into images, the results can be visually stunning. Mountains of data, so vital to understanding the complex operations of our planet, often become spectacular treats for the eye.

SSEC is proud to announce that Rick Kohrs, a senior instrument technician, placed in the top ten of The Why Files “Cool Science” contest with his image of the Earth as Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast of the United States.

earth image

Air Sea Interaction. Superstorm Sandy approaches the East Coast of the United States in this award-winning image of water vapor and sea surface temperatures from 28 October 2012. Image by Rick Kohrs.

The Why Files, an online site that explores the science, math, and technology behind the news of the day, has published their “Cool Science” feature for the past 17 years. Three years ago they held their first Cool Science Image contest, and that has proven to be a great success. This year over a hundred scientists and researchers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison submitted their photographs, illustrations, and videos to the contest.

“This image from October 28, 2012, shows the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere and sea surface temperatures,” says Kohrs. “Super-storm Sandy can be seen off the East coast of the United States as she strengthened due to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Moist air rises over warm water, seen in orange and red, and provides the fuel necessary to strengthen tropical storms. As storms pass over colder waters, seen in blues and greens, tropical storms begin to weaken do to the lack of energy-laden moist air rising from the sea surface.”

The Top Ten “Cool Science” images can be seen both at The Why Files contest site and at the Smithsonian blog site.

Visualization is obviously one of science’s greatest tools, but it is good to remember that such images have great aesthetic qualities as well, bringing both beauty and greater understanding to everyone.