Ugly Data in the Age of Satellites and Extreme Weather
Chapter 5 begins by documenting the emergence of satellite meteorology through cooperation among the War Department, the Weather Bureau, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the RAND Corporation after World War II. From TIROS to NIMBUS, and Landsat to GEOS, satellite meteorology was a product of collaboration between these sectors and the various desires (military reconnaissance, resource extraction, and national science) that grounded them. Satellite meteorology consolidated the nation-state's power across the middle to late twentieth century, yet it also left inhabitants of that same nation-state bereft—surrounded by data they cannot see themselves within. By analyzing the meteorological satellite movement of the 1960s, contemporary GOES 14 experimental satellite technology, and visual satellite data and media during Hurricane Sandy, this chapter shows that despite the complicated process of data gathering and transmission that is involved in meteorological satellite sensing and imaging, satellite media often pass as uninterpreted weather reality for popular audiences. They offer visual and textual narratives of weather crises that abstract the US settler state and its inhabitants from environmental disaster and the responsibilities and accountability such relations bear.