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 18, 2017
GPM overpass of hurricane Maria from 9/18/17
Intensifying hurricane Marie is on a path that is predicted to impact the Leeward Islands. Hurricane Irma caused death and wide spread destruction there less than two weeks ago. Very powerful convective storms and multiple lightning strokes within Maria have been cited as proof that Maria is an energetic intensifying hurricane. The GPM core observatory satellite had an excellent view of hurricane Maria when it passed almost directly above the hurricane on...
April 4, 2017
Sentinel-1 flood map from Australia.
The NASA SPoRT team provided change detection products that highlight recent flood waters in Australia from Tropical Cyclone Debbie using Sentinel-1 data. These products were developed in conjunction with colleagues at the Alaska Satellite Facility (https://www.asf.alaska.edu/). The change detection is a simple algorithm is based detecting change that is consistent with flooding using a pre- and post-event scene. The product’...
September 12, 2017
ARIA Damage Proxy Map of Southern Florida from Hurricane Irma
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 Southwestern Florida, including Key West and Naples, that are likely damaged as a result of Hurricane Irma (Category 4 at landfall in Florida), shown by red and yellow pixels. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the European Space Agency's (ESA)...
September 8, 2017
89 GHz RGBs from the GPM constellation of the three hurricanes affecting the Atlantic Basin this morning.  Approximate times for passes over the respective hurricanes are noted in the image.
Below are 89 GHz RGBs (composited) of the three hurricanes affecting the Atlantic basin this morning.  Notice a decent eye structure is observable in all of the storms, including Hurricane Katia in the SW Gulf of Mexico.  This was noted in the 4 AM CDT discussion about the hurricane from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), “Enhanced BD-curve infrared imagery and a GPM microwave composite image indicate improved banding over the western portion of the circulation and the earlier ragged eye presentation has become much more distinct.”  SPoRT helped with the implementation of the...
September 6, 2017
GPM overpass of Hurricane Irma on 9/5/17
The GPM core observatory satellite had an exceptional view of hurricane Irma's eye when it flew above on September 5, 2017 at 12:52 PM AST (1652 UTC). This image shows a rainfall analysis that was derived from GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) data. Irma was approaching the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of about 178 mph (155 kts). This made Irma a dangerous category five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson...
September 7, 2017
Image 1.  89 GHz image over Cat-5 Hurricane Irma from approx 0548 UTC 7 Sep 2017.  Background imagery is SPoRT SSTs from approx 18 UTC 6 Sep 2017.
The NASA SPoRT program has been providing Passive Microwave data to the National Hurricane Center for use in the NWS Automated Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), which allows for data-layering capabilities, and has helped improve the method for tracking center fixes on tropical systems.  These data have been provided to the NHC as part of an on-going collaborative effort for several years now.  These first two images are 89 GHz RGBs taken over Cat-5 Irma from this morning.  Importantly, these data/imagery help forecasters to better analyze the internal...
September 1, 2017
Financial Loss Potential Index for Hurricane Harvey v3, dated 1 Sep 2017
This Financial Loss  Potential Index map combines extent of flooding and depth information and overlays it with exposed property values located in the flooded areas. The Financial Loss  Potential Index represents the concentration of high flood hazard and/or high value property locations at a grid level and can be used to validate loss estimates as well as review flood claims.  The data is posted at 500m grid cells. The property exposure...
September 1, 2017
Sea surface temperature map of Harvey acquired August 30th 2017
Acquired August 23rd 2017. Acquired August 30th 2017. Hurricane Harvey dropped unfathomable amounts of rainwater on Houston and southern Texas from August 25–30, 2017. The potent category 4 hurricane and long-lived tropical storm also churned up the Gulf of Mexico with its winds and storm surges, dispersing warm surface water and mixing up cooler water from the depths....
August 29, 2017
Astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photo of Tropical Storm Harvey from the International Space Station on Aug. 28 at 1:27 p.m. CDT.
NASA has a lot of resources providing information on Tropical Storm Harvey as it continues to drop tremendous, flooding rainfall on Texas and Louisiana. Satellites like NASA's Aqua satellite and platforms like aircraft and the International Space Station continue to provide various kinds of data on the storm. "NASA focuses on developing new research capabilities that can be used by our partners in the operational and response communities," said Dalia Kirschbaum, Research Physical Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "While we continue to innovate in the...
August 25, 2017
GPM image of hurricane Harvey on Aug 25 2017
NASA’s Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center collaborated with the Naval Research Laboratory to integrate false color composites of passive microwave brightness temperatures that are helpful for identifying the center of circulation of storms like Hurricane Harvey, especially when thick cloud cover may otherwise obscure the center of the circulation.  A false color composite is generated using 89 GHz brightness temperatures from the Global Precipitation...
August 25, 2017
GPM precipitation radar data from Hurricane Harvey on 8/25/17.
Hurricane Harvey's has continued to intensify today as it moves toward the Texas coast. Bands of rain from the hurricane were affecting the Gulf coast from Louisiana to southeastern Texas. The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission core observatory satellite had another look at hurricane Harvey on August 25, at...
March 29, 2017
Animated 3D look at precipitation from tropical cyclone Debbie.
Tropical cyclone Debbie formed in the Coral Sea northeast of Australia om March 24, 2017. Debbie intensified and had hurricane force wind speeds within a day of formation. While headed toward northeastern Australia Debbie reached it's maximum sustained wind speeds estimated at over 100 kts (115 mph) on March 27, 2017 (UTC). Tropical cyclone Debbie came ashore on March 28th and brought destructive winds and extremely heavy rain to northeastern Australia. It was reported that heavy rainfall caused flash flooding that cut off a coastal town and covered several roads in Queensland. ...
March 28, 2017
An inundation map of the region near Proserpine, Australia, produced using the Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS) on 3/28/17.
An inundation map of the region near Proserpine, Australia, produced using the Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS). The GFMS is a NASA-funded experimental system using real-time TRMM Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) precipitation information as input to a quasi-global hydrological runoff and routing model.
October 9, 2016
 On October 9, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of floodwaters laden with sediment pouring out from several rivers in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Though its winds had weakened as it moved north, Hurricane Matthew delivered record-breaking rainfall to parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. In many coastal areas, the storm dumped well over 12 inches (30 centimeters) of water. On October 9, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s ...
October 22, 2015
Terra MODIS image of Hurricane Patricia as seen from NASA's Aqua satellite on Friday, October 23, 2015. At the time, Patricia was a Category 5 storm with 200 mph winds. 
Tier 1 Response determination by Disaster PM 12:15 ET Coordination Team Activated (MSFC, GSFC, JPL, LaRC, AMES) as well as representatives from R&A, IIA, ASP, CEOS and GEO Hurricane Status  at 1500 UTC on 23 October Hurricane center located near 17.6N 105.5W  Movement is toward the North at 9Kt/10.5 mph Maximum sustained winds 175 kts / 201 mph with Gusts up to 215 kts / 247 mph Estimated minimum central pressure is 880 mb Eye diameter is 5 nm International Charter...
October 12, 2016
IMERG total of hurricane matthew.
In this animation Hurricane Matthew travels up the east coast from Florida to the Carolinas. On October 8, 2016 Matthew (still a category 2 hurricane) dumps massive amounts of rain throughout the southeast dousing North and South Carolina. GPM then flies over the area revealing precipitation rates on the ground. As we zoom in closer, GPM's DPR sensor reveals a curtain of 3D rain rates within the massive weather system. To download:...
October 7, 2016
Satellite-based measurements of rainfall that fell on Haiti from September 28 to October 7, 2016, as compiled by NASA.
On October 4, 2016, Matthew slammed into southwestern Haiti near Les Anglais as a category 4 hurricane. Over the next few days, the slow-moving storm dropped upwards of 800 millimeters (30 inches) across parts of the impoverished nation. While aid workers and government officials have only begun to tally the damage, preliminary assessments suggest that more than 800 people have died as a result of the...
October 6, 2016
GPM precipitation data from hurricane Matthew
NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core observatory satellite flew over Hurricane Matthew several times as the category 4 storm headed toward Florida. The GPM Core Observatory carries two instruments that show the location and intensity of rain and snow, which defines a crucial part of the storm structure – and how it will behave. The GPM Microwave Imager sees through the tops of clouds to observe how much and where precipitation occurs, and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar observes precise details of precipitation in 3-dimensions. Video of GPM Monitors...
September 30, 2016
GPM Finds Intense Rainfall In Matthew Rainband
Matthew rapidly intensified Thursday evening and winds increased to 100 kts (115 mph) by Friday September 30, 2016. The GPM core observatory satellite flew over Hurricane Matthew on September 20, 2016 at 0946Z (5:46 AM EDT). A rainfall analysis from GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) showed that the Matthew had heavy rainfall in the northern side of the newly formed eye wall. GPM’s radar area of coverage (...
September 27, 2016
GPM Precipitation data from Typhoon Megi
Three typhoons have battered Taiwan in the past few weeks. Super Typhoon Meranti, the strongest typhoon of the year, caused havoc as it passed to the south of Taiwan on September 14, 2016. Typhoon Malakas clipped northeastern Taiwan a few days later. Typhoon Megi has now caused injuries, deaths and destruction as it passes over northeastern Taiwan. The GPM core observatory satellite passed over on September 26, 2016 at 2231 UTC when typhoon Megi was...

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