Tropical Cyclones

Overview

Tropical cyclones develop primarily in the summer months in regions with very warm sea surface temperatures, high low-level humidity and resulting instability that favors the development of thunderstorms, low amounts of vertical wind shear, and within the lower latitudes where these environments combine with a Coriolis force sufficient for establishing a surface area of lower pressure.  As they build in intensity, tropical waves and disturbances progress through categories of tropical depressions and named tropical storms, then to hurricanes and major hurricanes, the latter defined as a category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.  Tropical cyclones are readily observed in satellite imagery as organized clusters of thunderstorms in the lower tropical latitudes, and are much better known for the distinct, cloud-free eye common to major hurricanes as they move across the open oceans.  These cyclones bring large areas of damaging winds in addition to other threats from prolonged heavy rains and coastal inundation as a result of high storm surge, often requiring large evacuation zones when they threaten to impact populated areas, including the islands of the Pacific, southeastern Asia, and the Gulf Coast or eastern seaboard of the United States.

Tropical cyclones are frequently observed by NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission where their structure is made apparent through use of passive microwave brightness temperatures at various frequencies and polarizations.  In addition, their intense rainfall rates are readily mapped by the Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) product, and additional views of their three-dimensional structure made available through active radar scanning by the GPM core satellite.  Mapping of offshore heavy rain rates can provide responders with an expectation of what will occur after landfall, and improved identification of the storm’s center can aid tracking of the system and improved initialization with numerical weather prediction models.  Inland, rainfall estimates can be combined with streamflow and inundation models to understand flood risks resulting from the storm, and combined with topographical models and other information to characterize landslide threats.  Following landfall, flooding can be mapped using optical remote sensing from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard the Terra and Aqua missions, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) mission, or from the higher resolution views of the USGS/NASA Landsat-7 and Landsat-8 missions.  VIIRS also provides a unique opportunity to map power outages from space, which occur frequently as a result of landfalling tropical cyclones, and help to monitor the recovery of power in the days and weeks that follow.  Should post-storm cloudiness obscure a view of the land surface, synthetic aperture radar measurements of water extent from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1A and 1B platforms can assist with active scanning of inland surge and flood waters.  Finally, widespread damage to vegetation and treefall can be mapped over time from the aforementioned platforms, with ecosystem recovery monitored in the years that follow through consistent and continued imaging of the affected area

NASA Disasters Mapping Portal - Tropical Cyclone Dashboard

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Latest Updates

October 3, 2018
USGS Landsat 8 Imagery
Credit: USGS, Robert Brakenridge (Dartmouth Flood Observatory at the University of Colorado) and Albert Kettner (Dartmouth Flood Observatory at the University of Colorado). This image shows the maximum observed flooding areas using Landsat 8 and Copernicus / ESA Sentinel SAR data for Tropical Storm Florence. Landsat 8 is jointly managed by NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Copernicus is supported by the European Commission.
September 6, 2019
Screenshot of SAR flood map from Hurricane Dorian on 9/2/19.
Powerful Category 5 Hurricane Dorian struck the northern parts of the Bahamas on Sunday, September 1. Dorian first pummeled the Abaco Islands before stalling and battering Grand Bahama Island more than 40 hours with heavy rain and catastrophic storm surge. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES East satellite provided rapid, highly detailed imaging so that forecasters would have critical information about the storm’s movement. In the evening hours of September 2, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1A satellite also passed over the Bahamas, with a synthetic...
September 6, 2019
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime composite image as the storm approached the coast at 3:42 a.m. Eastern Time (07:42 UTC) on September 5, 2019.  Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime composite image as the storm approached the coast at 3:42 a.m. Eastern Time (07:42 UTC) on September 5, 2019.  Credit: NASA Earth Observatory After devastating the Bahamas and grazing Florida and Georgia, Hurricane Dorian rebounded and raked the coast of South Carolina with strong winds, heavy rains, and a storm surge. Wind, falling trees, and flooding damaged power infrastructure...
September 5, 2019
A damage assessment map derived from satellite data shows conditions on one island in the Bahamas on Sept. 2. Red and yellow areas are likely the most damaged. Credit: NASA-JPL, Caltech, Earth Observatory of Singapore. 
A damage assessment map derived from satellite data shows conditions on one island in the Bahamas on Sept. 2. Red and yellow areas are likely the most damaged. Credit: NASA-JPL, Caltech, Earth Observatory of Singapore. Copyright contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA Versión en español NASA has created and provided to emergency response...
August 29, 2019
GPM IMERG estimated rainfall totals for Hurricane Dorian from August 31st - September 5th, 2019. Credit: Owen Kelley (NASA GSFC)
UPDATE 9/5/19: Hurricane Dorian continues to generate tremendous amounts of rainfall, and has left over three feet of rain in some areas of the Bahamas and is now lashing the Carolinas. NASA’s IMERG product provided a look at those rainfall totals.
September 4, 2019
GPM overpass of Hurricane Dorian
Video of GPM Satellite observes Hurricane Dorian over the Bahamas   The NASA / JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory flew over Hurricane Dorian on September 1st (5:22pm ET / 21:22 UTC) as the storm was directly over Abaco Island in The Bahamas. The satellite captured data on rainfall rates within the storm as it flew over using its Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) and GPM Microwave Imager (GMI). In this animation the multi-satellite GPM IMERG product is shown first to illustrate rainfall rates prior to the overpass. When the camera zooms in data...
September 4, 2019
Screenshot of TEMPEST-D Dorian data.
A new view of Hurricane Dorian shows the layers of the storm, as seen by an experimental NASA weather satellite that's the size of a cereal box. TEMPEST-D reveals rain bands in four layers of the storm as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida on Sept. 3, 2019. The multiple vertical layers show where the strongest convective "storms" within the hurricane are pushing high into the atmosphere, with pink, red and yellow corresponding to the areas of heaviest rainfall.
September 3, 2019
 NASA's ARIA team used satellite data acquired on Sept. 2, 2019, to map flooding in the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech, ESA
NASA's ARIA team used satellite data acquired on Sept. 2, 2019, to map flooding in the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech, ESA While many NASA missions are tracking Hurricane Dorian as the storm makes its way toward the United States, some researchers are looking at what Dorian has already left behind.  The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used synthetic aperture radar data from the...
September 18, 2018
ARIA damage proxy map derived from images taken before (September 02, 2016) and 12 hours after the hurricane's landfall (September 14, 2018 7:06 PM local time).
UPDATE 9/18/18:ARIA damage proxy map derived from images taken before (September 02, 2016) and 12 hours after the hurricane's landfall (September 14, 2018 7:06 PM local time). The ARIA team has created a flood extent map from Sentinel-1 SAR data acquired from Track 4, 12 hours after the landfall of Hurricane Florence. The map was pushed to the FEMA's SFTP server and is available to download from  ...
August 30, 2019
Screenshot of SPORT-LIS soil moisture map for Florida on August 25th, 2019. 
NASA data shows that in many parts of the state the soil is already saturated with moisture - a condition that could lead to increased flooding as Hurricane Dorian heads for a potential landfall in central Florida.   Analyzing soil moisture conditions in advance of an approaching weather system helps researchers and disasters response agencies anticipate the impact of heavy rainfall and identify regions which are more likely to experience runoff and flooding. Using a land surface modeling system which incorporates near real-time satellite observations, NASA developed soil moisture...
July 17, 2019
GPM IMERG rainfall accumulation from Hurricane Barry.
This animation shows the heavy precipitation that Hurricane Barry produced from July 11-16 in the Gulf of Mexico and the southcentral United States. While forecasters were initially concerned that the largest accumulations would extend far over land, the heaviest rainfall  remained mostly offshore.  Precipitation estimates are derived from the GPM IMERG product, which combines microwave and infrared observations from an international constellation of satellites united by the GPM Core Observatory. The left side of the movie shows the total accumulation starting in the early hours of...
July 12, 2019
GPM Core Observatory rainfall rates from Tropical Storm Barry captured July 11th, 2019 at 8:26am CT. Credit: Jacob Reed / NASA GSFC
GPM Core Observatory rainfall rates from Tropical Storm Barry captured July 11th, 2019 at 8:26am CT. Credit: Jacob Reed / NASA GSFC NASA / JAXA’s GPM Core Observatory passed over developing Tropical Depression 2 (which was upgraded to Tropical Storm Barry later in the morning) in the Gulf of Mexico the morning of July 11th 2019 at 8:26am CT, capturing estimates of rainfall rates within the storm. The first image shows rainfall rates collected by GPM’s Microwave Imager, while the second...
September 29, 2017
ARIA Damage Proxy Map for Puerto Rico
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Caltech, also in Pasadena, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas of Western Puerto Rico that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of Hurricane Maria (Category 4 at landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017). The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-...
September 29, 2017
Map showing power outages in Puerto Rico
After Hurricane Maria tore across Puerto Rico, it quickly became clear that the destruction would pose daunting challenges for first responders. Most of the electric power grid and telecommunications network was knocked offline. Flooding, downed trees, and toppled power lines made many roads impassable. In circumstances like this, quickly knowing where the power is out—and how long it has been out—allows first responders to better deploy rescue and repair crews and to distribute life-saving supplies. And that...
May 8, 2019
VIIRS Black Marble imagery of nighttime lights in Bhubaneswar India, comparing April 30th and May 5th 2019. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Ranjay Shrestha / NASA GSFC
This interactive GIS map from the NASA Disasters Mapping portal lets you view Suomi NPP VIIRS "Black Marble" imagery before and after Cyclone Fani hit the region. This data helps disaster responders track which regions were affected by power outages.  VIIRS Black Marble imagery of nighttime lights in Bhubaneswar India, comparing April 30th and May 5th 2019. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Ranjay Shrestha / NASA GSFC In early May...
March 22, 2019
GEOGloWS Global Streamflow Forecasting derived from the European Center for Medium-range Forecasts (ECMWF) beginning March 12th. Image Credit: Jim Nelson / NASA Disatsers Program
GEOGloWS streamflow forecast for March 12th, 2019.  GEOGloWS streamflow forecast for March 16th, 2019.  GEOGloWS Global Streamflow Forecasting derived from the European Center for Medium-range Forecasts (ECMWF) beginning March 12th that shows approximately a week in advance the forecasted storm. This is an ensemble forecast and you can see on...
November 1, 2018
CALIPSO lidar observes the top of Typhoon Yutu
CALIPSO and CloudSat, two satellites in the newly formed C-Train, captured a stunning overpass through the eye of Typhoon Yutu on October 28th, 2018 at 04:58 UTC as the storm was approaching the Philippines in the West Pacific. Typhoon Yutu contained estimated sustained winds of 120 knots (138 mph) with a minimum pressure of 933 mb, the equivalent of a Category 4 strength storm. At the time of the overpass, Typhoon Yutu was beginning a period of weakening as the storm was moving into less favorable atmospheric conditions, including lower sea surface temperatures. The storm left a trail of...
October 30, 2018
ARIA DPM Imagery of Northern Mariana Islands Devastated by Super Typhoon Yutu
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas of Northern Mariana Islands that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of Super Typhoon Yutu. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The pre-event images were taken before (October 4, 2017...
October 30, 2018
Typhoon Yutu Flood Inundation and RainFall Forecast
    The images above show flood inundation and rainfall accumulations over a 3-day period in the Po River valley in Italy today and forecast flood conditions today in the Philippines. The hazardous weather conditions in the Philippines are associated with Typhoon Yutu. Despite weakening into a tropical...
October 26, 2018
VIIRS (Visbile Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument aboard Suomi-NPP captures observations of Typhoon Yutu.
The VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument aboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) observed Typhoon Yutu around 1:30 pm local time from October 23 to 26, 2018. The VIIRS images revealed a cloud-filled eye. The Suomi NPP satellite is part of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), a joint NOAA/NASA program, created in order to design and launch the next generation of polar orbiting satellites. VIIRS data is used to measure...

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