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Spooky Satellite Photo Shows Hurricane Matthew's 'Skull'

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An overhead satellite image of Hurricane Matthew battering Haiti is disturbing people across the internet for an unusual reason: The image bears an uncanny resemblance to a skull or spooky goblin face.

The sinister satellite image, which was posted on Twitter Tuesday (Oct. 4) by Stu Ostro, a meteorologist at The Weather Channel, went viral, with users likening the creepy face to the Grinch or a skull. The image, which was taken using infrared light, was color coded to show the most intense portions of Hurricane Matthew. Color coding is a standard practice in weather reporting, though it's not clear whether this color coding was intentionally ghoulish.

The seeming row of teeth in the storm's creepy face are actually convection clouds, Paul Meyer, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Earth Science Office, told CNN. [Face on a Comet: See Images of Faces in Space]     

Hurricane Matthew is currently heading toward the Bahamas, but the storm could cause intense winds and rainfall on Florida's east coast and parts of North Carolina, according to an update released by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 8 a.m. ET today (Oct. 5). The storm is currently listed as a Category 3 hurricane, the NHC reported.

Seeing faces

The phenomenon of seeing significance in random images or objects, known as pareidolia, is surprisingly common; humans are wired to see structure and significance in images, according to David Huber, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has studied the phenomenon. 

"Your brain is constantly trying to make the most out of just the tiniest thing," Huber previously told Live Science. "You're sort of in overdrive on imagining from limited information that there is a face."

And humans are particularly wired to see faces everywhere: From an evolutionarily perspective, humans probably had a need to react more quickly to things with faces — from a scary tiger, to an enemy tribesman, to a cute and hungry baby — than to inanimate objects, Huber said. Add in millions of years of evolution, and voilà: the image of the Virgin Mary on toast, a face on a comet and ghoulish skulls in hurricane imagery.

Original article on Live Science.

Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.