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Hurricane Season 2005: Tropical Storm Zeta
01.03.06
 
Tropical Storm Zeta

Record 2005 Hurricane Season Continues Into the New Year

It is perhaps no surprise that the 2005 hurricane season, which shattered so many records, concluded the year with an active storm in the Atlantic-- Tropical Storm Zeta. On the 30th of December, 2005, Tropical Storm Zeta, the record 27th named storm of the season, was born in the central Atlantic from a remnant area of low pressure previously associated with an old frontal boundary. These boundaries can induce convection, which in turn can transform an area of associated low pressure from one with midlatitude characteristics into one with tropical charactersitics. This type of tranformation in not uncommon in the later stages of the hurricane season.

Over the next several days, Zeta moved in a general westward direction, initially northwestward then southwestward, across the central Atlantic well away from any land areas. Zeta has remained a tropical storm with only slight fluctuations in intensity.

For the past 8 years, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite (known as TRMM) has used its array of passive and active sensors to estimate rainfall over the global Tropics from space. TRMM has also proven to be a valuable platform for monitoring and studying tropical cyclones (e.g., tropical storms and hurricanes), especially over remote parts of the open ocean such as in the case with Zeta in the central Atlantic.

The first image was taken by TRMM at 3:01 am EST on 3 January 2006 as it flew over Zeta in the central Atlantic. The first image (right) was taken by TRMM at 8:01 UTC (3:01 am EST) on 3 January 2006 as it flew over Zeta in the central Atlantic. It shows a top-down view of the horizontal rainfall intensity pattern associated with Zeta. Rain rates in the central part of the swath come from the TRMM Precipitation Radar (PR), the only radar that can measure precipitation from space. Rain rates in the outer swath are from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI). The rain rates are overlaid on infrared (IR) data from the TRMM Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS). This image from TRMM shows that Zeta is a small storm with a fairly well-developed circulation as evidenced by the curvature in the rain features (blue and green arcs). However, the storm is very asymmetrical with most of the moderate intensity rain (green areas) northeast of the center. The actual center of circulation is located on the southwest corner of the cloud mass (lower left portion of the white area) and appears to be surrounded by a partial eye (small, tightly curved green arc). At the time of this image, Zeta was a tropical storm with sustained winds estimated at 50 knots (58 mph) the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

This image was taken at 7:34 pm EST on January 3rd.  The top The final set of images were taken at 00:34 UTC on January 4th (7:34 pm EST January 3rd). The top-down view (left) shows a similar overall pattern with the bulk of the rain northeast of the center (large continuous green and blue area) as a large rainband [longer green arc with areas of embedded heavy rain (red areas)] feeds in from the eastern side of the storm. The center itself is still on the southwest corner of the cloud mass (white area) and is now surrounded by a ragged ring of light (blue) to moderate (green) rain. The cloud pattern (white area) shows that the center of the storm is nearly separated from the rainband by an intrusion of cloud free air.







This image was taken at 7:34 pm EST on January 3rd.  This shows a 3D perspective of Zeta looking west constructed fromTRMM PR data taken at the same time as the image above to the left. The final image (right) shows a 3D perspective of Zeta looking west constructed from TRMM PR data taken at the same time. The PR can look inside the storm to shows details of the storm's structure. The isosurface corresponds to small precipitation-sized particles. The 3D perspective shows how high up into the atmosphere the particles are. The red tops show areas of deeper convection that are associated with the areas of heavier rain (red areas in the previous image). The center is nearly surrounded by a ring of moderately deep convection (green annulus). A gap separates the center convection from the higher tops associated the the rainband (green ridge with red tops). At the time of these last images, Zeta was still a tropical storm with sustained winds of 55 knots (63 mph). The system was moving to the southwest. Zeta is expected to turn northwestward and weaken. TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA. Credit: Images produced by Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC) and caption by Steve Lang (SSAI/NASA GSFC).






Earlier Images



Image of Tropical Storm Zeta taken on January 2, 2006. December 30, 2005, saw an unexpected addition to the year’s weather events: Tropical Storm Zeta. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard the Aqua satellite captured this image several days later on January 2, 2006, at 16:05 UTC (roughly 2:05 p.m. local time). At that time, Zeta had sustained winds of around 82 kilometers per hour (52 miles per hour), a steady strength the storm has now maintained for several days without relenting, waxing, or waning.

After the previous record-holding storm season of 1933, which saw 21 named storms, weather forecasters established a convention of using just 21 letters of the alphabet (the last letter being W) to begin the names of Atlantic tropical storms. After Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, forecasters turned to the Greek alphabet. Zeta is the fifth letter of that alphabet, and this is the 27th named storm of 2005. One month after 2005’s record-breaking storm season officially ended, this storm appeared roughly 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the southwest of the Azores Islands.

A tropical storm is characterized by winds of at least 63 kilometers (39 miles) per hour. To be categorized as a hurricane, a storm needs winds of more than 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. As Tropical Storm Zeta formed, ocean temperatures didn’t appear warm enough to escalate Zeta into a hurricane, and news reports described it as no immediate threat to any land areas.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.

Image of Tropical Storm Zeta


December 30, 2005, saw an unexpected addition to the year’s weather events: Tropical Storm Zeta. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard the Aqua satellite captured this image on December 30, 2005, at 15:35 UTC (roughly 1:35 p.m. local time). At that time, Zeta had sustained winds of around 82 kilometers per hour (52 miles per hour).

After the previous record-holding storm season of 1933, which saw 21 named storms, weather forecasters established a convention of using just 21 letters of the alphabet (the last letter being W) to begin the names of Atlantic tropical storms. After Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, forecasters turned to the Greek alphabet. Zeta is the fifth letter of that alphabet, and this is the 27th named storm of 2005. One month after 2005’s record-breaking storm season officially ended, this storm appeared roughly 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the southwest of the Azores Islands.

A tropical storm is characterized by winds of at least 63 kilometers (39 miles) per hour. To be categorized as a hurricane, a storm needs winds of more than 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. As Tropical Storm Zeta formed, ocean temperatures didn’t appear warm enough to escalate Zeta into a hurricane, and news reports described it as no immediate threat to any land areas.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.


Tropical Storm Zeta Poised to Ring in 2006

NOAA map showing the predicted track that Tropical Storm Zeta is expected to take.


The 2005 hurricane season is proving to be surprisingly prolific and long-lived. Another record is broken this year with the formation of Tropical Storm Zeta, the 27th storm of the year.

Hurricane season normally ends on November 30. That is typically when the waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean cool down below the 82 degree threshold needed to power storms. Tropical Storm Zeta, however, formed on Dec. 30 southwest of the Azores Islands, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. The Azores are composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean approximately 932 miles from the European coast and 2,423 miles from the North American coast.

At 2 p.m. EST on Dec. 30, the center of Tropical Storm Zeta was located near latitude 25.0 north, longitude 36.9 west. Zeta was moving toward the northwest near 8 mph and will likely turn to the west-northwest during the next 24 hours. Zeta's maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm force winds extend up to 85 miles from the center.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast some possible strengthening later today and then a weakening trend on Saturday, Dec. 31.

For the latest updates on Tropical Storm Zeta, please visit the National Hurricane Center Web Site at:
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

 
 
Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center