National Geographic : 1960 Aug
NASA; U.S. WEATHERBUREAU Clouds Over the Central United States Match Their Weather-map Portrait Like a swan, the cloud formation swims in the sky with its head above Nebraska and body over the Mississippi Valley. Cold, dry Canadian air forms the black wedge knif ing in from the left. On the map, the low-pressure area corresponds to the swan's head; the heavy black lines of a cold front simulate the bird's body. hostile edge of space is pitifully short. Lengthy, unremitting exposure to the blazing sunlight could quite literally cook it, a key component could break down and silence it, or the annual orbit of the earth around the sun could throw it into prolonged shadow, causing its storage batteries to run down. Future weather explorers, however, will be largely free of these disabilities. Some will boast infrared scanners capable of taking pic tures in the dark; others will eye the earth constantly, turning very slowly to adjust their viewing axis. Once orbited over the poles, such satellites could keep weather de velopments in all parts of the world under surveillance. And, from an orbit 22,000 miles above the Equator, a single camera could con tinuously view one-third of the earth. New World Opens for Weathermen Meanwhile, for meteorologists, Tiros I is uncovering a spectacular new facet of their science. Cloud formations are the chief quarry of its cameras, and these show up on film with remarkable clarity. On an early pass a thin trail of clouds scudding across Sudan and the Red Sea (page 297) suggested a jet stream farther north. A check of conventional 302 weather measurements for the same day veri fied the presence of the elusive high-altitude wind current. Time after time, in frame after frame, all sizes and complexities of storm areas appeared: A typhoon took shape off New Zealand, a cyclone in the Indian Ocean. Highly organized cloud patterns spiraled turbulently across 1,000 miles of the Pacific. Spiral formations, in fact, march through the pictures like a re current theme; ultimately they may provide us with a key to the life cycles of storms. Scientists are still strangers in this curious, unmapped world of the topside of the sky. Extensive study and analysis, however, will enable meteorologists to relate these new ob servations to our present understanding of the earth's weather. And someday the knowl edge gleaned from satellites such as Tiros I will permit man to live at greater ease with the elements. "The weatherman," says Dr. Morris Tep per, Chief of NASA's Meteorological Satellite Programs, "has been like the proverbial blind man who tries to describe an elephant by feeling its trunk. Now, for the first time, his eyes are being opened to a view of the entire animal."