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A Season of Tornadoes: Earth Image of the Week May 27, 2011
April 2011 Tornado Outbreak.
One of the many lines of severe storms that brought tornado swarms to the southeastern U.S. during May.
Even before the catastrophic Joplin, Missouri, tornado on May 22, the U.S. had experienced unprecedented tornado activity throughout the month of April.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center received 875 tornado reports during that month alone, with 625 eventually being confirmed as tornadoes.

Many of these storms were concentrated during 7 different major outbreaks, mostly in the southern U.S.

The largest outbreaks occurred during April 27-28, leaving more than 300 people dead in over 180 storms reported from Texas to Virginia.

The animation in the enlarged version shows the GOES-East satellite infrared imagery from April 1-30, along with the locations of each tornado that formed during the time, symbolized as red dots.

Though tornadoes cannot actually be seen by GOES, satellites are instrumental in being able to detect the conditions favorable for their formation.

The actual tornado locations in the animation were pinpointed by the Storm Prediction Center, which uses both NEXRAD radar and ground reports to generate a detailed database of tornadoes in the U.S.

As the resolution of GOES satellites has increased with each successive series, so have the warning times for tornadoes.

The future GOES-R satellite will provide even higher resolution and storm prediction capability, especially with the use of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper sensor.

Full story and image: NOAA