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ScienceShot: A Tornado's Path of Destruction

13 June 2011 3:47 pm
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NASA/USGS

The lengthy swath of destruction that a tornado plowed across Massachusetts earlier this month stands out starkly on satellite images. On 10 June, NASA released images from a Landsat satellite taken before (top) and after (bottom) the 1 June tornado carved a 63-kilometer (39-mile) path from Springfield to Sturbridge. In the image taken on 8 October, only cities, roads, and other signs of human development can be discerned. In the view taken 5 June, however, part of the light-colored corridor of twister damage, which at its widest measured about 800 meters across, can easily be recognized—largely because the peak winds of the EF3 tornado, which probably measured between 219 and 266 kilometers per hour, stripped trees bare of vegetation, increasing the contrast between the damaged landscape and the intact trees nearby. A full satellite view of the tornado damage hasn't been generated, because during the only Landsat pass over the area since the event the westernmost portion of the tornado's path was blocked by clouds (white blotch at upper left of bottom image).

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