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Hurricane Irma
Two NASA MODIS satellite images show the southern Florida coast before Hurricane Irma struck and the day after Irma passed. (Photo: NASA/MODIS)

Satellite imagery shows how Hurricane Irma left its mark on the planet


Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful hurricanes on record in the Atlantic, and while it lost a little bit of steam before it plowed into Florida, it still had enough strength to change a few colors on the planet.

First of all, check out this LANDSAT 8 satellite image from the Caribbean, where Irma struck as a Category 5 hurricane last week.

These natural color images show what the lush, green islands looked like on Aug. 25 before Irma struck and what they looked like on Sept. 10 after Irma had passed and the clouds had cleared.

NASA says the browning of the landscape can be caused by a number of things.

"Lush green tropical vegetation can be ripped away by a storm’s strong winds, leaving the satellite with a view of more bare ground," said Kathryn Hansen with NASA's Earth Observation program. "Also, salt spray whipped up by the hurricane can damage and desiccate leaves while they are still on the trees."

You can see some of this effect from the damage photos our affiliate KOMO obtained from from a witness who rode out the storm in Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Hansen says looking at a before-and-after satellite image from Virgin Gorda shows the changes as well.

"Note how some of the vegetation on the south and west of the island is a bit greener, likely because it was partly shielded from winds by the hills in the center," she wrote.

Changes were visible in Florida as well -- not so much over land, but in the water. Irma did a spectacular job of churning up debris and sediment from the shallow waters just off Florida's southwest coast.

Here it is with the images overlaid on top of each other:

Looking at the satellite imagery as Irma headed toward the Florida coast, you can see the power it took to churn up that much water!

According to Seth Borenstein with the Associated Press, Irma generated the second most Accumulated Cyclone Energy — a key measurement that combines strength and duration — in the satellite era. Irma generated about as much as energy as entire normal Atlantic hurricane season, the Borenstein said.

This report was provided by Scott Sistek with our affiliate KOMO. Special shout out to the National Weather Service Office is Caribou, Maine who noticed the change in sediment colors off Florida.

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