NASA eyes Hurricane Dorian from orbit
NASA has been keeping watch on Hurricane Dorian as it continues its menacing advance across the Atlantic Ocean. A series of satellites have captured data and images of the monster storm, and footage has been captured from the International Space Station (ISS).
As of 8:00 a.m. EDT on August 30, Hurricane Dorian has been recorded as having maximum sustained winds of almost 110 mph (175 km/h). This information was captured by instruments aboard a US Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft, however NASA has been keeping an eye on the lumbering giant from much further afield.
Hundreds of miles above the storm, robotic eyes have been probing the strength and composition of the weather system, and capturing striking imagery in the process.
On July 27, NASA’s CloudSat orbiter had already created a 3D animation of the internal structure of the storm, using radar to pierce through the dense clouds and reveal the complex layers of cloud and their disparate heights. Data from CloudSat also revealed that some of the cloud tops towered 9 miles (15 km) above the ocean, and that winds of 52 mph (84 km/h) were raging within.
Later, on August 28, at a height of 250 miles (400 km) above the weather system, the cubesat TEMPEST-D was busy piercing through the clouds with its miniaturized radio-wave-based instrument, and observing the moisture content of the storm.
In the TEMPEST-D image, the most intense regions of rainfall are denoted by the yellow to pink colors located in the center of the image. Further out, green areas indicate masses of moisture being drawn farther into the storm.
Above TEMPEST-D, video of the storm was captured from the International Space Station as it traveled over 261 statute miles (420 km) above the Earth’s surface, travelling at a speed of around 5 miles/sec (8 km/sec).
From its orbital vantage, a camera fitted to the outside of the station captured video footage of Dorian at 1:05 p.m. EDT on August 29, as the Hurricane strengthened off the north coast of Puerto Rico.
Just 25 minutes later at 1:30 p.m. EDT, NASA’s Aqua satellite captured further data on the weather system. Using its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, which measures infrared and microwave radiation being emitted by the storm, Aqua was able to gain a greater understanding as to the temperature, humidity, cloud volume and height of Dorian.
In the AIRS image, rain-heavy cold clouds hefted high into the atmosphere by thunderstorms embedded deep within the storm are represented in purple. Blue and green areas are warmer, lower cloud masses, while orange and red areas indicate regions largely free of cloud.
According to the US National Hurricane Center, the storm will bring a life-threatening storm surge, heavy rain and devastating winds to the northwestern Bahamas and portions of Florida’s east coast over the weekend and moving into next week.
Information on how to protect yourself if you are in the path of a hurricane can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov website.