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Hurricane Season 2010: Tropical Cyclone Rene (Southern Pacific Ocean)
02.17.10
 
February 17, 2010

The AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite captured a very weak Rene on Feb. 16 at 13:29 UTC. > View larger image
The AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite captured a very weak Rene on Feb. 16 at 13:29 UTC. The highest clouds (blue) were located on Rene's southeast side.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
Rene Falls Short of New Zealand

Residents of New Zealand welcomed the news that Tropical Cyclone Rene wasn't going to hold together and reach them. Rene has already dissipated in the South Pacific and NASA's Aqua satellite caught her fading fast yesterday, February 16.

When NASA's Aqua satellite flew over Tropical Storm Rene on February 16, its form had already become asymmetrical and there was no central convection (rapidly rising air that forms thunderstorms). Data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on Aqua captured an infrared image of the system on Feb. 16 at 13:29 UTC (8:29 a.m. ET) and revealed no high thunderstorm cloud tops. The highest clouds associated with Rene were located on her southeast side.

Satellite imagery also showed that Rene's center had been exposed to outside winds. Between an open circulation and no building thunderstorms, Rene was fading fast. So fast, in fact that she didn't make it another 24 hours.

Rene's last position was 695 nautical miles north-northeast of Auckland, New Zealand, near 26.3 South and 177.7 East. Rene was barely hanging onto tropical storm status with maximum sustained winds near 39 mph (35 knots), but they waned very quickly and several hours afterward, her winds were down to 34 mph (30 knots). Rene will be watched for regeneration, but it is not expected to come back to life.

Text credit: Rob Gutro, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center



February 16, 2010

Tropical Cyclone Rene (15P) when it was off Pago Pago on February 14 at 01:15 UTC. > View larger image
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured an image of Tropical Cyclone Rene (15P) when it was off Pago Pago on February 14 at 01:15 UTC.
Credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team
Cyclone Rene Slams Tonga, Moves Into Open Waters

Tropical Cyclone Rene slammed Tonga early yesterday, February 15, with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph (160 kilometers). NASA’s Aqua satellite captured an image of Tropical Cyclone Rene when it was off Pago Pago yesterday, February 14 at 01:15 UTC. Rene has since moved southward and is now expected to dissipate in the next couple of days.

Tonga is an archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of 169 islands, and 133 of those are uninhabited. The Kingdom of Tonga stretches over 500 miles (800 km) from north to south. The islands that make up the archipelago are all south of Samoa.

Rene passed over the northern island of Vava'u this weekend. Nuku'alofa, the capital city of the islands was lashed with gusty winds and heavy rainfall and residents experienced some power outages. In the center of the archipelago, the Ha'apai island group was hit by wind gusts as high as 143 miles (228 km) an hour.

By 4 a.m. ET (0900 UTC) on February 16, Rene’s maximum sustained winds had decreased to 45 knots (52 mph or 83 km/hr). Rene was located near 24.7 South and 179.6 West, about 440 nautical miles southeast of Nadi, Fiji. Rene was moving about 16 knots (18 mph or 29 km/hr) west-southwest.

Satellite data revealed that Rene’s low-level center of circulation is now fully exposed to wind shear. In addition, the deep convection (rapidly rising air that creates the thunderstorms that power tropical cyclones) has been sheared off to the south of the storm’s center, cutting of its power.

Rene is now moving over waters cooler than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 Celsius), so it is expected to continue weakening. 80F (26.6C) is the minimum warm water temperature threshold that a tropical cyclone needs to maintain strength. In addition to cooler waters an upper-level low pressure area to the northwest is helping to suppress convection from occurring. Wind shear is battering Rene, too, so the storm is being weakened from three major factors.

Before Rene struck Tonga, the nation was hit by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, February 13. The quake was 6.2 miles deep and was located about 60 miles southeast of Nuku’alofa. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Residents of Tonga are grateful that Rene has passed so the clean up can begin.

Text credit: Rob Gutro, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center