Monday, July 28, 2014

Different weather conditions at MH17 launch and crash site

Russian trolls have tried to discredit the single one launch photo of the trail of the missile that brought down MH17, by arguing that there where no clouds in that photo, but on all other photos and videos of the crash site clouds can be seen.

The simple answer to this is that the sites are 20 kms apart and when you look in a different direction you may see different cloud patterns or no clouds at all.

Nevertheless, because of the importance of the matter, it is necessary to investigate if the weather indeed was as photographed.

Here are many photos of the crash with clouds clearly visible.

This is the launch photo:

 Note that the sky is not clear, but there are veil clouds or high thin haze.

@WowihaY found some weather reports on of neighbouring cities. I put them on a map:

Near Torez it was clear and sunny in the morning and cloudy towards the evening. Yet at the launch time of 16:25 it does show clouds. So this is not conclusive enough for me. It MIGHT fit, but 'prove' is something different. Question remains: what kind of 'clouds', how thick, from what direction?

So we need more detailed information like satellite images. Googling 'weather history' brought me to You can enter date and time and hopla...
Ukraine is UTC+2, so we need to enter UTC 14:30 on July 17th:

(UPDATE: in summer it is UTC+3, it means the images below are one hour too late. Yet the principle is the same and the difference is tiny.)

This is the image:

Next thing is to determine where Torez is and the two sites, at the red dot on the right:

Now that's some very small area. We need to zoom in, enlarge:

Left = original satellite image
Right = copy with markers on it
Red dot = approximate launch site
Blue dot = approximate crash site
Yellow area = distinguishable different type of clouds

Even though the area is small, a different type of clouds can be seen above the crash site, compared to the launch site. Above the launch site, looking south-east there is a much thinner, even type of clouds.

@ain92ru pointed me out to this site which explains how the infrared image helps to identify the type of clouds. This is the infrared image:

It is neither white nor black at the launch location, indicating these are in between categories B and C: mid high clouds and possibly fog.

But there is another thing. The launch photo was made from a distance of 12 km.

It means that a very large focal length must have been used to zoom into that location.
And THAT means the clouds in the photo are not what you see ABOVE it, but what you see ON THE HORIZON.
Like for instance in this somewhat extreme example, but it makes the principle very clear:

Even though there might be thunderclouds above you, if the horizon is clear and you zoom in far, you get a result like in the launch photo with a haze-like sky.

Just for comparison this was the situation at 12:00. The entire Torez area is cloudless, consistent with the weather reports from The clouds appeared later in the afternoon. 

The weather/clouds in the launch photo are different from the crash site. But even when there would be thin layers of clouds directly above the cameraman, in the photo he is photographing the horizon, which might be hundreds of kms away. This area unfortunately is not visible on the satellite image anymore, but it does not need to worry us.
There is no reason to doubt that the launch photo is as authentic as can be.

Here is a link to a very detailed discussion about this subject in Russian.
Also see: EXIF data of launch photo confirms its authenticity.

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