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Microsoft Flight Simulator players are chasing Hurricane Laura

This high-tech flight simulator even contains a new hurricane

a white plane flying into Hurricane Laura in Microsoft Flight Simulator Image: Asobo Studio/Xbox Game Studios via Petri Levälahti/Twitter
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Hurricane Laura is a catastrophe. The storm made landfall on Wednesday night as a Category 4 hurricane, and has already killed at least one person. Residents of Texas and Louisiana unable to evacuate have been hit hard. But as the storm is making its way inland from the Gulf of Mexico, people are tracking its progress up close inside Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Flight Simulator includes a live weather system, which is basically modeling Laura inside the game world. Microsoft partnered with Swiss meteorological service Meteoblue, dividing the in-game world up into 2 million 100-square-mile chunks, each with its own simulated weather system based on real-world data. The result is something quite remarkable.

Simply put, the footage of Hurricane Laura from Microsoft Flight Simulator is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. It’s also much safer than traditional forms of observing these kinds intense storms firsthand.

Microsoft Flight Simulator pulls in lots of real-world data, which sometimes leads to hiccups and glitches as the game struggles to bring it all together as a cohesive whole. Weather data is an exception, however. The game isn’t putting individual in-game clouds where they are in the real sky, but instead running a sophisticated simulation based on the data. The result: incredibly stunning pictures of a virtual version of the same storm.

This thread by Alex, a Twitter user and video editor, shows more breathtaking shots of Hurricane Laura from a distance. It’s worth reading the entire thread to see his entire gallery of images, including one taken up from such a high angle that his plane needed to be de-iced.

Alex also noted that he wasn’t alone. Flight Simulator also pulls in live flight data from the real world. While there weren’t any other real flights in the area of the storm, there were plenty of other players in-game investigating the hurricane with him.

Obviously, you shouldn’t be using a flight simulator — or a game of any kind — to monitor dangerous storms like this if they’re coming at you. It’s possible to check the progress of Hurricane Laura via the National Hurricane Center’s website, which shows a map, relevant statistics, and safety information.

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