Here are images from an observation from June 14, 2013, in Brooklyn, NY.
The satellite images are taken by MODIS imager and the meteorological analysis is done by CERES instruments on Aqua and Terra satellites. NASA uploads the images a few hours after the flyover and they can be found here.
Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) is on-going NASA climatological experiment from Earth orbit. Results from the CERES and other NASA missions could lead to a better understanding of the role of clouds and the energy cycle in global climate change.
There’s no image without a point of view. This project represents two ways of knowing, a scientific narrative, and a personal narrative.
The observations are done through conversations in which we are guided by NASA’s ground-truth questionnaire which includes questions such as What is the sky color? and How high are the clouds?. The practice of ‘ground truthing’ is used in the fields of which build a model of reality from remotely gathered data, such as cartography, meteorology or artificial intelligence. ‘Ground truth’ is human observation confirming information gathered by a technical apparathus. A mass of these human judgements helps the process of reading and interpreting the data.
The satellite view represents a view from the ‘outside’, looking down, a perspective of sovereigns over nature (after all we’re used to the idea that if something is looking back at us when we look up, it’s omnipotent). In Ecology Without Nature, Timothy Morton proposes that an ecological criticism must be ‘divested of the bifurcation of nature and civilization’, or the idea that nature exists as something that sustains civilization, but exists outside of, and separate from, civilization. Instead, Morton proposes the term ‘mesh’ to refer to interconnectedness of everything: ‘The mesh has no central position that privileges any one form of being over others, and thereby erases definitive interior and exterior boundaries of beings. […]All beings are said to relate to each other in a totalizing open system.’ Using Morton’s terminology, our observation is a report form within the ‘mesh. It describes a unique moment in time and space stamped by a particular formation of clouds, from a perspective informed by the individual history of the observer. Within the mesh, all beings become ‘strange strangers’, as the defining boundaries between them are dissolving. The more we describe the clouds the more we end up describing everything else. The more we know about an entity, the stranger and harder to define it becomes. A person’s observation of an environment is as much an image of the observer and his or her connections to the environment.
Cheryl Foster describes these two dimensions of experience of nature as ‘narrative’ and ‘ambient’, the second one being the “more powerful and enduring experience [that] resists direct or clear expression in discursive prose,” while the first one, prevalent in our culture, “privileges natural history and the frameworks of science for understanding and seeing what nature reveals through its surface. The depth of time beneath the formal and perceptual features cannot be seen by the naive eye and thus must be understood, rather than observed, as directly influencing the perceptual surface. Through a grasp of previously present processes we can read the natural environment as the offspring of its progenitors and see its perceptual features as manifestations of those progenitors.”
Neither approach in isolation gives us a full picture, constitutes full knowledge, argues Foster.
Each observation results in the pair of images of the clouds from above and from below. The conversations are recorded and edited together stringing together conversations at different times and spaces.