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September 03, 2004 - (date of web publication)


Hurricane Frances continues to grind through the warm waters of the Caribbean, throwing its weight around with 120 mph winds and lashing rains. Its top sustained winds are down from about 145 mph on Thursday, but forecasters warn that Frances could still regain its former strength. Seen from space, this storm is a well-organized giant. Using a fleet of advanced instruments, NASA continues to track the storm as it makes its way toward the East coast of the United States.



Image of Frances from the International Space Station.

Hurricane Frances fills the window of the International Space Station, orbiting 230 miles above, in this photo taken at about 8 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004 by Astronaut Mike Fincke. Click on image to enlarge.

Credit: NASA


NASA's TRMM satellite (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) can see hurricanes in three dimensions. Looking down from its near Earth orbit, the vehicle is unique in the space agency's fleet of Earth observing instruments. Here we see Frances depicted two different ways, each showing aspects of the storm's inner structure. Red colors indicate regions of the most significant rainfall. Notice the spires stretching up in to the sky. These "hot towers" suggest an efficient and powerful heat engine inside the storm, emphasizing to experts just how powerful this particular tropical beast may be.


3-D image of Frances from TRMM

Image of "Hot Towers" within Hurricane Frances.

Click on each image to view two different animations of TRMM data.



NASA's SeaWiFS instrument captured this stunning image of Hurricane Frances on September 2. As it bears down on the coast of Florida, officials make preparations for heavy rains and winds. Due to the slow forward progress of the storm, experts expect heavy damage from storm surge-ocean waters essentially cast onto coastal shores.



SeaWiFS image of Frances

Click on image to view movie.
Click here for high resolution (10.4 MB)



Among the many scientific instruments flying in NASA's fleet, the twin MODIS sensors on the Terra and Aqua satellites capture stunning details of the Earth below. In this sequence we track the journey of Hurricane Frances via the two MODIS instruments. The sequence begins in the Eastern Caribbean on August 27th and ends on September 3rd.



Image of Hurricane Frances from MODIS

Click on image to view movie.

Credit: NASA


By September 2nd, Hurricane Frances had already battered the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands. Listed as a Category 4 storm, Frances packed winds of 140 mph before turning northwest towards Florida. In this sequence captured by the GOES satellite orbiting high above the Earth, we can see the highly organized structure of the storm as it grinds its way through the tropical waters of the Caribbean.



GOES image of Hurricane Frances

Click on image to view movie.



Hurricanes depend on warm water for life. Ocean water must remain above 82 degrees Fahrenheit for a hurricane cannot survive. That's why hurricanes tend to occur in the late summer and early autumn. By then water in the tropical ocean has had months to absorb the sun's energy.

In this sequence we see data gathered by an instrument on the Aqua satellite. The beginning of the sequence starts in January. Notice how the ocean color in the Caribbean is mostly blue, indicating relatively cool temperatures. But as the year progresses, ending in early September, we see a dramatic increase warm water. The wide orange and yellow region on the screen is precisely the zone that fortified Frances at it pushed its way in to the United States.



Graphic map of data gathered by an instrument on the Aqua satellite.

Click on image to view animation.

Credit: NASA


NASA maintains a corps of world-class scientists and an advanced fleet of satellites tasked with the goal of better understanding the mechanics and behaviors of our home planet.

Among the vehicles that collected information about Hurricane Frances, the satellite called TRMM continues to produce unique and powerful results. Aqua is one of a pair of large Earth observing platforms. Along with its sibling satellite Terra, it can monitor a variety of data across the length and width of the globe, helping scientists study the interrelationships of various planetary processes.

Earth science continues to be a mainstay of the space agency's mission. In an effort to protect life on planet Earth, NASA continues to pursue science of the future even as it delivers vital, up to the minute information about our world today.



Image of TRMM satellite

Click on image to view animation.

Credit: NASA

Reporter's Package:

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Reporter's Package still image

Click on image to view Reporter's Package.

Credit: NASA

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