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

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 Measurement...
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 7:50 AM CDT (1150 UTC...
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 not yet...
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 storm....
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 (shown in a...
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 approaching...
October 23, 2015
Tropical Cyclone Intensification (TCI) HIRAD Instrument
Report from Dan Cecil/HIRAD PI: Takeoff today was at 1808 UTC, the WB-57 should get over the storm around 20 UTC (3 CDT).   Data collection has gone smoothly so far, and initial processing of data from the first flight (Wednesday) was also nominal.   Data from the second flight was just downloaded this morning, during preparations for today’s flight. Landfall expected tonight, therefore WB-57 will not fly 24 Oct as TCI is an over water mission
October 23, 2015
Hurricane Patricia as seen from the International Space Station on Friday afternoon, October 23, 2015
The ISS sees Hurricane Patricia.  Hurricane Patricia as seen from the International Space Station on Friday afternoon, October 23, 2015   Wind speed and direction near the ocean surface, as measured on October 23 by the ISS-RapidScat. Brighter shades of blue represent stronger surface winds.

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