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

Latest Updates

September 14, 2018
Comparison of Civil Air Patrol photography and UAVSAR imagery from 9/17/18.
UDPATE 9/21/18: Comparison of Civil Air Patrol photography and UAVSAR imagery from 9/17/18. This image compares UAVSAR classified quad-polarimetric imagery near Cheraw, South Carolina on 9/17/18 with Civil Air Patrol photography of the same area from 9/18/18. In the UAVSAR image, pink denotes urban areas whereas red, orange and yellow usually denote inundated trees and vegetation.  Dark blue or black are are usually flooded open water; roads can be black even if not flooded. ...
September 14, 2018
NASA SPoRT Sea Surface Temperatures from 9/13/18 at 6:00 UTC
UPDATE 9/21/18: SPoRT Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) composite image from 9/20/18. View the latest SPoRT SST image: https://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/sportPublishData.pl?dataset=sst   UPDATE 9/14/18: NASA SPoRT Sea Surface Temperatures from...
September 15, 2018
VIIRS Black Marble nighttime data showing pre and post event imagery from Wilmington NC.
UPDATE 9/21/18: Suomi-NPP VIIRS Black Marble nighttime data showing pre and post event imagery from Wilmington NC. Suomi-NPP VIIRS Black Marble nighttime data showing pre and post event imagery from Jacksonville NC. The NASA Black Marble product suite has been used to assess disruptions in energy infrastructure and utility services...
September 20, 2018
Screenshot of the CAMP2Ex web portal interface.
Screenshot of the CAMP2Ex web portal interface. The CAMP2Ex portal (https://camp2ex.jpl.nasa.gov) was developed to support the upcoming NASA’s  CLOUD AND AEROSOL MONSOONAL PROCESSES - PHILIPPINES EXPERIMENT (CAMP2Ex). The portal monitors hurricanes and tropical convection in the West Pacific and the Indian ocean basins.  It provides interactive visualization, data integration and on-line analysis tools. The portal: i) integrates...
September 20, 2018
Screenshot from the North Atlantic Hurricane Watch web portal.
Screenshot from the North Atlantic Hurricane Watch web portal. The North Atlantic Hurricane Watch (NAHW – https://nahw.jpl.nasa.gov ) portal monitors hurricanes and tropical convection in the North Atlantic and East Pacific ocean basins.  It provides interactive visualization, data integration and on-line analysis tools. The portal: i) integrates model forecasts with satellite and airborne observations from a variety of instruments...
September 18, 2018
This MODIS flood detection map from 9/19/18 shows the 1-day flood product (in red), on top of the 1-day surface water product (in yellow) in Google Earth.
UPDATE 9/19/18: This MODIS flood detection map from 9/19/18 shows the 1-day flood product (in red), on top of the 1-day surface water product (in yellow) in Google Earth. The MODIS Near Real-Time Global Flood Mapping Project produces global daily surface and flood water maps at approximately 250 m resolution, in 10x10 degree tiles. This project was developed in collaboration with Bob Brakenridge at the Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO):...
September 14, 2018
Figure 1.  Weekly total rainfall (inches), valid 11-18 September 2018, from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) product.  Four counties are denoted, for which soil moisture histogram animations are shown later in thi
  UPDATE 9/18/18: Soil moisture transformation from dry (brown/orange) to near saturation (purple/blue) over North Carolina associated with flooding rainfall from Hurricane #Florence (SPoRT-LIS product incorporating #MRMS precipitation). @NASA_LIS pic.twitter.com/SRgPnz5nL6 — NASA SPoRT (@NASA_SPoRT)...
September 18, 2018
GPM IMERG rainfall accumulations from Typhoon Mangkhut.
Video of 7-Day Animation of Mangkhut Affecting the Philippines In the past week, Typhoon Mangkhut has affected the Philippines, mainland China, and Hong Kong, as shown in this 7-day animation of NASA's satellite-based IMERG precipitation product. The upper frame shows the storm-total accumulation starting at 0100 UTC on September 11, 2018. Storm-total accumulations in excess of 4 inches stretched from Manila to the northern tip of Luzon Island where the rainfall triggered deadly landslides. The lower frame shows the short-term accumulation in a 3-hour period that slides from the...
September 19, 2018
AMSR-2 rainfall data from Typhoon Mangkhut acquired 9/14/18.
AMSR-2 rainfall data from Typhoon Mangkhut acquired 9/14/18. On September 14, 2018 NASA LANCE Near Real-Time AMSR2 product captured the intense rainfall of Typhoon Mangkhut approached Philippines, which is the 2018’s strongest storm so far.  NASA LANCE Near Real-Time (NRT) AMSR2 products include surface precipitation rate, wind speed over ocean, water vapor over ocean and cloud liquid water over ocean. AMSR2 on JAXA's GCOM-W1 spacecraft launched on May 18, 2012. The NRT...
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  ...
September 15, 2018
The images were taken before (September 09, 2018) and 36 hours after the hurricane's landfall (September 15, 2018 18:57 PM local time).
UPDATE 9/18/18:The images were taken before (September 09, 2018) and 36 hours after the hurricane's landfall (September 15, 2018 18:57 PM local time).  The ARIA team has created a flood extent map from Sentinel-1 SAR data acquired from Track 106, 36 hours after the landfall of Hurricane Florence. The map was pushed to the FEMA's SFTP server and is available to download from  https://aria-...
September 14, 2018
Precipitation rates within Hurricane Florence from the GPM IMERG "early run" half hourly data product, obtained 9/14/18 at 15:00 UTC.
UPDATE 9/18/18: Over the weekend #HurricaneFlorence brought torrential rains and record flooding to the Carolinas. This GPM IMERG visualization shows storm-total accumulated rainfall on the left for 9/12/18 - 9/17/18 vs. a sequence of 3-hour accumulations on the right https://t.co/numzHJXzb2 pic.twitter.com/pzAgkVrRXl— NASA Precipitation (@NASARain)...
September 15, 2018
CYGNSS ocean surface (10m referenced) wind speed during overpasses of Hurricane Florence on 10 Sep (left) and 11 Sep (right) 2018. The storm center is identifiable in the vicinity of maximum wind speed values.
UPDATE 9/17/18: CYGNSS ocean surface (10m referenced) wind speed during overpasses of Hurricane Florence on 10 Sep (left) and 11 Sep (right) 2018. The storm center is identifiable in the vicinity of maximum wind speed values. All eight CYGNSS observatories have been continuously operating in science mode since Hurricane Florence transitioned from a tropical storm to a Cat1 hurricane on 9 Sep 2018. Examples of ocean surface winds measured during overpasses on 10 and 11 Sep are...
September 14, 2018
GEOS wind speeds visualization of Hurricane Florence.
Having churned through the Atlantic for two weeks, Hurricane Florence is among the longest-lived cyclones of the 2018 season. That means the storm’s winds have had plenty of time to rage and ease as they ran into different environmental conditions over the Atlantic Ocean. This animation highlights the storm’s wind field between September 1 and September 14, 2018. The strongest winds appear red; weaker winds are white. The wind data comes from the Goddard Earth Observing...
September 15, 2018
LANCE imagery of water vapor, precipitation, and wind speed in Hurricane Florence from 9/15/18 viewed in NASA Worldview.
LANCE imagery of water vapor, precipitation, and wind speed in Hurricane Florence from 9/15/18 viewed in NASA Worldview. NASA’s Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (Earth Observing System) (LANCE) provides data and imagery from Terra, Aqua, Aura, Suomi NPP and GCOM-W1 satellites in less than 3 hours from satellite observation, to meet the needs of the near real-time (NRT) applications community. LANCE leverages existing satellite data processing systems in order to...
September 14, 2018
GPM Core Observatory overpass of Hurricane Florence from 9/14/18 at 18:36 UTC. Ground track shows rain rates (mm/hr) from the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) instrument, 3D swath shows rain rates in the atmospheric column from the Dual-frequency Precipitation
The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is an international network of satellites that provide the next-generation global observations of rain and snow. Building upon the success of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the GPM concept centers on the deployment of a “Core” satellite carrying an advanced radar / radiometer system to measure precipitation from space and serve as a reference standard to unify precipitation measurements from a constellation of research and operational satellites. Through improved measurements of precipitation globally, the GPM mission is...
September 15, 2018
Sentinel 1A overpass of coastal North and South Carolina from 9/14/18. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA. 
Sentinel 1A overpass of coastal North and South Carolina from 9/14/18. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by ESA.  Mission description: Sentinel 1A/B is a two satellite synthetic aperture radar constellation operated by the European Space Agency. The backscattered microwave energy from the ground can be used to map flooded areas, and estimate wind speeds over the ocean. Both satellites have a 12-day repeat cycle, providing imagery at about 20m...
September 14, 2018
 AMSR-2 / GCOM-1 Surface Precipitation Rates from Hurricane Florence obtained 9/14/18
 AMSR-2 / GCOM-1 Surface Precipitation Rates from Hurricane Florence obtained 9/14/18 The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) instrument on the Global Change Observation Mission - Water 1 (GCOM-W1) provides global passive microwave measurements of terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric parameters for the investigation of global water and energy cycles. Near real-time (NRT) products are generated within 3 hours of the last observations in the file, by the Land...
September 14, 2018
The map shown here was generated using sea surface height measurements from the first 10 days (February 12-20, 2015) of data collected once Jason-3 reached its operational orbit of 830 miles (1336 kilometers).
 Jason-3 is the fourth mission in U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the height of the ocean surface. Launched on January 17, 2016, the mission will extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements (the hills and valleys of the ocean surface) begun by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission in 1992 and continuing through the Jason-1 (launched in 2001) and the currently operating OSTM/Jason-2 (launched in 2008) missions. These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and...

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