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

July 17, 2019
GPM IMERG rainfall accumulation from Hurricane Barry.
This animation shows the heavy precipitation that Hurricane Barry (2019) produced from July 11th to 16tj in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Central U.S. While forecasters were initially concerned that the largest accumulations would extend far over land, this animation shows that the largest accumulations remained mostly off shore. The precipitation estimates shown in this animation come from the GPM IMERG product, which combines microwave and IR observations from an international constellation of satellites united by the GPM Core Observatory. The left side of the movie shows the total...
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...
October 26, 2018
The MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites observed Typhoon Yutu from October 23 to 26, 2018.
        The MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites observed Typhoon Yutu from October 23 to 26, 2018. The MODIS images revealed a cloud-filled eye. MODIS is a key instrument aboard the Terra (originally known as EOS AM-1) and Aqua (originally known as EOS PM-1) satellites. MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth...
October 25, 2018
IMERG rainfall accumulation from Typhoon Yutu
This rainfall accumulation analysis was derived from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) IMERG multi-satellite dataset. This analysis shows Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) rainfall accumulation estimates along Yutu’s track from October 21- 25, 2018 as it hit the Northern Mariana Islands. IMERG rainfall accumulation data indicated that Yutu frequently produced rainfall totals greater than 10 inches along it's current track.
October 26, 2018
Imagery of Hurricane Willa's Landfall
The European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) captured the moment of landfall of the eye of Hurricane Willa on October 24, 2018. The red areas to the north may represent very heavy precipitation ("pluvial" flooding). Brighter wind-driven waves surround the calmer, darker water below the eye. Part of the eye has come ashore. It is not yet known if this image also shows the storm...
October 24, 2018
GPM visualization of Typhoon Yutu
NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) core observatory satellite captured an image of Super Typhoon Yutu when it flew over the powerful storm just as the center was striking the central Northern Mariana Islands north of Guam. Early on October 25, 2018 Super Typhoon Yutu crossed over the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. The National Weather Service in Guam said it was the strongest storm to hit any part of the U.S. this year.
October 25, 2018
Super Typhoon Yutu
Aqua MODIS natural-color image of Typhoon Yutu acquired on October 24, 2018. In just 30 hours from October 23-24, 2018, a tropical storm in the western Pacific Ocean exploded into a category 5 super typhoon. Now that storm has made a direct hit on Tinian and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a territory of the United States. Super Typhoon Yutu has tied ...
October 26, 2018
AMSR-2 precipitation aquired 10/22/18.
AMSR-2 precipitation from Hurricane Willa acquired 10/22/18. On October 22, 2018 the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) instrument, onboard Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Global Change Observation Mission (GCOM)-W1 satellite, observed the surface precipitation rates of Hurricane Willa as it approached Mexico. This Land, Atmosphere Near-Real Time Capability for EOS (LANCE) NRT AMSR2 image shows high precipitation...
October 26, 2018
GFMS flood prediction maps
Hurricane Willa has brought life-threatening storm surge, wind, and rainfall to portions of west-central and southwestern Mexico. A few powerful convective storms within Willa were dropping rain at a rate of over 6.3 inches per hour on October 21, 2018. The Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS) is...
October 26, 2018
NASA/NOAA GOES-16 aquires image of Hurricane Willa 
NASA / NOAA GOES-16 aquires image of Hurricane Willa  Around midday on October 23, 2018, the center of Hurricane Willa passed the Islas Marías as it closed in on Mexico’s mainland. The Category 3 hurricane was expected to bring strong winds, heavy rainfall, and a storm surge to west-central and southwestern Mexico. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-16 (GOES-16) acquired data for this composite...
October 23, 2018
Observed Flooding Areas Using SAR Data after Hurricane Michael
The picture above is a flooding map created by Professor Robert Brackenridge at The University of Colorado. The data to create this map was derived from The European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Sentinel-1 is a two satellite constellation with the prime objectives of Land and Ocean monitoring. Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B satellites carry the single C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instruments, which can provide an all-weather, day-and-night...
October 23, 2018
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images of Areas Effected By Hurricane Michael 2018
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took a collection of visible-wavelength (RGB) digital camera images on October 17, 2018. RGB, or Red, Green and Blue imagery helps to visually identify areas that have been damaged during a natural hazard. These images were then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.The images provide regional context, and may be useful for visualization of Hurricane...

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