SpaceShipTwo, Leafsnap and the Joplin Tornado

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Watching the return of SpaceShipTwo gave us an idea. Watching a smartphone identify a leaf gave us the same idea. Then came Sunday’s tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri. Same idea. We need to highlight videos on Earthzine. We need to highlight videos on Earth Observation, from satellites, from the ground, and in between. So welcome to the first in a periodic blog series on videos worth watching, and sharing.


First up is the Joplin, Missouri, tornado, which left at least 89 dead and devastation in its path on Sunday.

This video is hard to watch. It’s difficult to make out the shapes in the dark, and just as difficult to listen to the screams of those who experienced this twister. The video was reportedly taken from inside a convenience store as the tornado hit.


This one is easier to watch. There’s less horror and more awe. It’s of Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo returning to Earth on its first feathered flight.

The test was conducted in California’s Mojave Desert.


Finally, we come to Leafsnap.

Have you ever taken a walk in the woods, or picked up a leaf only to wonder “what kind of tree is that?”

Thankfully, computer scientists at Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution have taken the time to create an app that identifies leaves based on photos. It’s available for the iPhone and iPad.

Do you know of an Earth Observation videos to highlight? Leave a suggestion in the comments and we’ll have a look. Or e-mail the author of this post at