NOAA Spots Message in the Clouds

Does somebody want us to 'go'?
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2022 12:55 PM CDT
Is the Earth Sending Atmospheric Messages?
An image captured by NOAA's GOES satellite on May 6, 2022, off the west coast of Chile   (NOAA)

Always looking for a good laugh, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday shared satellite images of an apparent skywriting attempt by Mother Earth. Per, an extremely large, well-formed capital “G” appeared off the west coast of Chile. In an initial tweet, NOAA had fun with the fact that it was Friday and superimposed additional letters to read “TGIF.” However, in a second tweet, the agency noted that a small letter “o” also appears, potentially spelling the word “Go,” prompting observers to question whether the Earth itself was asking us all to “Go” away.

NOAA used the image to brag about its satellite network: “While we're happy it’s Friday, NOAA satellites never rest, keeping a constant and vigilant watch over Earth's weather. We were surprised to see this interesting pattern in the marine stratocumulus clouds off the coast of Chile today.” According to, it’s all just another instance of pareidolia, in which the human brain perceives recognizable shapes within random, natural patterns. Aside from the famous “Man on the Moon,” examples of popular pareidolia include a face on Mars and creepy, skull-like images in deep-space nebulae.

It's usually not all fun and games for those who operate NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), which focus on identifying “atmospheric triggers” for severe weather conditions like tornadoes and hurricanes. Last week, per the New York Times, NOAA shared a decidedly unhumorous yet “mesmerizing” time-lapse image showing gigantic smoke plumes rising from wildfires in New Mexico and blowing toward a cascading “sheet of brown” caused by dust storms in Colorado. “Both are examples of the sorts of natural disasters that are becoming more severe and frequent as a result of climate change,” the Times reports. (More NOAA stories.)

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