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Hurricane Season 2011: Tropical Cyclone Yasi (South Pacific Ocean)
02.08.11
 
NASA's CloudSat Gathers an Impressive Inside Look at Massive Cyclone Yasi

NASA's CloudSat satellite flew over Tropical Cyclone Yasi and revealed some impressive numbers for the height and width of the storm's clouds. Yasi was a category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph made landfall on the eastern Australian coast on February 3rd, 2011. CloudSat overpassed the storm at 1520 UTC on February 1, 2011, about 32 hours before the storm hit the coast.

CloudSat revealed some impressive numbers for the height and width of Yasi's clouds.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Colorado State University/Naval Research Laboratory
› View larger image

CloudSat overpassed the eastern section of the storm providing a detailed glimpse of the cirrus (white line), cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds encompassing the system. Infrared imagery was acquired from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard the NASA's Aqua satellite. CloudSat imagery is shown below the image along the blue track line. The center coordinate of the pass was -14.1 degree latitude, 153.8 degree longitude.

The colors in the CloudSat image indicate the intensity of the reflected radar energy, red colors indicating the most intense reflected energy. This is an indication of large amounts of water and heavy rainfall. Heavier precipitation bands are denoted by absence of radar signal around the inner core region. Gaps in the rainbands outside of the inner core region (called moats) are easily distinguishable by the CloudSat data. The cloud layering structure in the inner core region reveals the upper portion of a much stronger cell (black line) expanding upwards and outwards over smaller cumulus cells.

Cloudsat measured the storm from one end to the other and found it to be about 1450 kilometers (901 miles) across from end to end. CloudSat measurements also showed that the highest thunderstorms measured an incredible 19,200 kilometers (11.9 miles) high! Thunderstorms that high are tremendous rainmakers and very powerful.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi is the most intense cyclone to hit Australia since 1918, above normal sea surface temperatures in the southwest Pacific can be attributed to La Nina conditions.

Text Credit: NASA JPL



February 7, 2011

TRMM Satellite rainfall totals are shown here from Jan.28 to Feb 4, 2011 › View larger image
TRMM Satellite rainfall totals are shown here from Jan.28 to Feb 4, 2011for northeastern Australia in association with the passage of Cyclone Yasi. Storm symbols show the storm's track. Most of central Queensland received 50 to 100 mm (~2 to 4 inches, shown in green) of rain. Approximately 100 to just over 150 mm (~4 to 6 inches, shown in yellow and orange) fell right along the northeast coast of Queensland where the cyclone made landfall.
Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce
This image of the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Yasi was captured on Saturday, Feb. 5 › View larger image
This image of the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Yasi was captured on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 01:20 UTC (Feb. 4 at 8:20 p.m. EST) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument on NASA's Terra satellite.
Credit: NASA/Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
NASA's TRMM Satellite Totaled Cyclone Yasi's Heavy Rainfall in Queensland

Queensland, which is still trying to recover from earlier widespread flooding as a result of above-normal rainfall due to La Nina and previous tropical cyclone activity, just received a direct hit on the northeast coast by Yasi, one of the most powerful cyclones to strike the region in decades. Data from NASA and JAXA's TRMM satellite measured Queensland's intense rainfall from space.

Cyclone Yasi, a massive storm, made landfall along the northeast coast of Queensland as a powerful Category 5 storm on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's cyclone intensity scale (equivalent to a strong Category 4 storm on the U.S. Saffir-Simpson scale) midway between Cairns and Townsville, near to where Cyclone Tasha made landfall back in late December.

After making landfall, Yasi continued to move west-southwest across central Queensland and on into the southeast corner of the Northern Territory deep within the central part of the country.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite (known as TRMM) was launched back in 1997 with the primary purpose of measuring rainfall in the Tropics from space. For increased coverage, TRMM can be used to calibrate rainfall estimates from other satellites.

The TRMM-based, near-real time Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. is used to monitor rainfall over the global Tropics. TMPA rainfall totals were calculated for the period from January 28 to February 4, 2011 for northeastern Australia in association with the passage of Cyclone Yasi.

Despite the fact that Cyclone Yasi was both a large and intense Category 5 storm, the rainfall totals are not very high, sparing the region from more massive flooding. TRMM showed that most of central Queensland received on the order of 50 to 100 mm (~2 to 4 inches) of rain. That's because one of the biggest contributors to tropical cyclone rainfall is how fast the storm is moving. Yasi moved rapidly across the region leaving little time for the rain to accumulate.

The heaviest rain amounts occurred over coastal regions. Approximately 100 to just over 150 mm (~4 to 6 inches) fell right along the northeast coast of Queensland where the cyclone made landfall. Another area of heavier rain with similar amounts extends inland from the southern Gulf of Carpentaria where the storm's large clockwise circulation drew in additional moisture off the warm waters.

For earlier images and information about Cyclone Yasi, visit the NASA Hurricane page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2011/h2011_Yasi.html.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.



February 4, 2011

Yasi's remnants ... the small areas of purple indicate remaining strong thunderstorms. › View larger image
NASA's AIRS instrument captured this infrared image of Yasi's remnants moving into the Northern Territory. The small areas of purple indicate remaining strong thunderstorms and some were over the Gulf of Carpentaria. Those areas had high, cold cloud tops as cold as -63F/-52C.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
NASA's Aqua Satellite Sees Cyclone Yasi's Remnants Move into the Northern Territory

NASA's Aqua Satellite flew over the remnants of Cyclone Yasi early today and captured an infrared image of its cold remnant clouds as it moved into Australia's Northern Territory.

Infrared imagery provides a look at temperatures of cloud tops and land and ocean heat content. Higher, colder clouds indicate stronger thunderstorms within a tropical cyclone that bring the heaviest rainfall. In an image captured on Feb. 4 at 04:53 UTC (11: 53 a.m. EST, Feb. 3) there were some small areas in north of the center of Yasi's remnant circulation and occurring over the Gulf of Carpentaria. Those areas were had high, cold cloud tops as cold as -63F/-52C.

At 11:00 p.m. Australia NT local time/1330 UTC/8:30 a.m. EST) on Friday Feb. 4, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (ABoM) noted that a Severe Weather Warning was in effect for residents in the eastern Alice Springs, Barkly and eastern Roper-McArthur Districts. Damaging winds and flash flooding are possible with strong thunderstorms. Updated warnings and weather information is available at the ABoM's website: www.bom.gov.au.

At 9.30 p.m. Australia local time /12:00 UTC/7:00 a.m. EST, the center of ex-tropical Cyclone Yasi was located in the eastern Alice Springs District near latitude 23.0S, longitude 137.3E. That's about 74 miles (120 kilometers) east of Jervois. It is moving towards the southwest at about 11 mph/18 kmh.

As the tropical depression continues moving through the Northern Territory, damages caused by Cyclone Yasi are still being estimated in Queensland.

News reports from News.com.au reported widespread damage to far northern Queensland. Reports cited buildings on Dunk Island suffered tremendous damage as roofs were torn off and many trees were uprooted. At Mission Beach roadways were flooded from Yasi's storm surge. Boats in the Hinchinbrook Marina and in Cardwell were piled up from Cyclone Yasi's storm surge. Bruce Highway near Innisfail was flooded out and blocked traffic. Agriculture was particularly hard hit with losses. Reports also noted that the Yasi's strongest winds were not experienced in the population centers of Cairns and Townsville and moved north of the mining operations in the region.

The low pressure area is forecast to move across the western Alice Springs District on Sunday and then weaken over Western Australia on Monday. As Yasi continues to track southwest residents should be on guard for heavy rainfall and potential flooding over the weekend.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.



February 3, 2011

The TRMM satellite flew above Yasi on Feb. 2 at 10:39 p.m. EST/1:39 p.m. Australia local time collecting data on rainfall rates. › View larger image
The TRMM satellite flew above the cyclone at 0339 UTC (Feb. 2 at 10:39 p.m. EST/1:39 p.m. Australia local time) collecting data on rainfall rates. Yasi was still dropping moderate to heavy rain over Australia in an area southeast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. . The yellow and green areas indicate moderate rainfall between .78 to 1.57 inches per hour. Red areas are heavy rainfall at almost 2 inches per hour.
Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce
As of Feb. 2, the center of Yasi had already moved inland and the eye of the storm had become obscured by clouds. › View larger image
This visible image of Tropical Cyclone Yasi was captured by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite at 04:15 UTC (Feb. 2 at 11:15 p.m. EST/2:15 p.m. Australia local time. The center of Yasi had already moved inland and the eye of the storm had become obscured by clouds.
Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
NASA Measuring Tropical Storm Yasi's Inland Rainfall From Space

Tropical Cyclone Yasi has continued moving through inland Queensland, Australia and has weakened to a tropical depression today. NASA and JAXA's TRMM satellite passed over Yasi as it continued to drop moderate to heavy rainfall.

On February 3 at 0300 UTC (Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. EST/1 p.m. Australia local time) Tropical cyclone Yasi continued over land as a tropical storm. Yasi's maximum sustained winds were near 60 knots (69 mph/111 kmh). It was moving west-southwest near 20 knots/23 mph/37 kmh). It was located about 200 miles (321 km) southwest of Cairns, Australia near 19.3 South and 143.4 East.

Just 39 minutes after the position of Yasi's center was determined, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite flew above the cyclone at 0339 UTC (Feb. 2 at 10:39 p.m. EST/1:39 p.m. Australia local time) collecting data on rainfall rates. Yasi had weakened to tropical storm strength but TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data reveal that the storm was still dropping moderate to heavy rain over Australia in an area southeast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Just about an hour later, another NASA satellite passed over Yasi capturing the massive size of the strom in a visible image. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies onboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured data on Yasi at 04:15 UTC (Feb. 2 at 11:15 p.m. EST/2:15 p.m. Australia local time. The center of Yasi had already moved inland and the eye of the storm had become obscured by clouds.

The Australia Bureau of Meteorology (ABoM) website has been updating residents of Yasi's movement and affects. To see the ABoM's radar, visit: http://www.bom.gov.au/products/national_radar_sat.loop.shtml.

At 9:30 a.m. EST (14:30 UTC) on Feb. 3 (or 12:30 a.m. Australia local time on Feb. 4) Yasi was approaching the border of the Northern Territory and had weakened into a tropical depression. The ABoM noted that isolated thunderstorms, heavy rains, flash flooding and damaging winds with gusts greater than 48 knots (55 mph/90 kmh) are possible in the western interior of Queensland. Updates from the ABoM can be found at: www.bom.gov.au.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.







February 2, 2011

view of Tropical Cyclone Yasi › View larger image
On Feb. 2 at 03:35 UTC / 1:35 p.m. Australia local time, the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this visible image of Cyclone Yasi making landfall in Queensland, Australia. The eye of the cyclone is very clear and indicative of the power of this tropical cyclone.
Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
› View larger image
At 03:29 UTC /1:29 p.m. Australia local time on February 2 (10:29 p.m. EST, Feb. 1), the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captured an infrared image of Cyclone Yasi as its center was just southeast of Willis Island. The infrared image showed powerful thunderstorms with strong convection and heavy rainfall (purple) surrounding a large area around a very clear eye.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
NASA Aqua Satellite Sees Powerful Cyclone Yasi Make Landfall in Queensland, Australia

NASA's Aqua satellite captured visible and infrared imagery of powerful Cyclone Yasi as it was making landfall in Queensland. The center of the monster cyclone Yasi made landfall on Australia's northeastern coast early Thursday (Australia local time) bringing heavy rainfall, severe winds and storm surge.

On Feb. 2 at 03:35 UTC/1:35 p.m. Australia local time, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible image of Cyclone Yasi before it made landfall in Queensland, Australia. The eye of the cyclone was very clear and indicative of the power of this tropical cyclone. Damaged buildings, downed trees and power outages have been reported.

A Cyclone Warning is still in effect today for coastal and island communities from Cooktown to Proserpine, and west inland to the Northern Territory border. The Cyclone Warning was cancelled between Cape Flattery and Cooktown. The Australian Bureau of meteorology warned that flooding rains between Cairns and Proserpine will gradually move inland as Yasi tracks to the west. Flood Warnings are in effect for several rivers between Cairns and MacKay

At 03:29 UTC/1:29 p.m. Australia local time on February 2 (10:29 p.m. EST, Feb. 1), the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captured an infrared image of Cyclone Yasi as its center was just southeast of Willis Island. The infrared image showed powerful thunderstorms with strong convection and heavy rainfall surrounding a large area around a very clear eye. The temperatures in the cloud tops were as cold as or colder than -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius).

Tropical Cyclone Yasi was making landfall as a powerful Category Four cyclone with maximum sustained winds near 135 knots (155 mph/ 250 kmh) on Feb. 2, at 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST/ 1 a.m. Australia local time on Feb. 3). It was located about 245 miles east of Cairns near 17.5 South and 146.8 East and moving west-southwest near 13 knots (15 mph/ 24 kmh). Maximum waveheights associated with Yasi were 42 feet (~13 meters) in the Coral Sea.

The automated Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) weather station on Willis Island provided amazing data this morning as Cyclone Yasi swept past. Willis Island is located east of Queensland, Australia. Rainfall exceeded 60 mm (2.36 inches) in one hour and pressure had fallen to near 938 millibars. Windspeed peaked at 75 knots (86 mph/138 kmh) before the equipment stopped working.

As Yasi made landfall and swept inland, Cairns, located to the north of Townsville, recorded a low reading of atmospheric pressure near 983 millibars. Rainfall was 16 mm (0.6 inch) in one hour, and maximum sustained winds were recorded as high as 34 knots (39 mph/63 kmh).

Lucinda, which is south of Cairns, and north of Townsville recorded a low atmospheric pressure of around 977 millibars. Rainfall totals in one hour were recorded near 27 mm (1.06 inch) and maximum sustained winds were recorded near 73 knots (84 mph/135 kmh).

In Townsville, the atmospheric pressure had dropped to near 993 millibars. The BoM website indicated that Townsville had received as much as 90 mm (3.5 inches) of rainfall in one hour and sustained winds were around 57 knots (65 mph/105 kmh). South of Townsville, the town of Proserpine received 50 mm (2 inches) of rainfall in one hour and pressure dropped as low as 1005 millibars. Maximum sustained winds were recorded near 27 knots (31 mph/50 kmh).

At 3 a.m. local time, the center of Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi had moved inland and was located near 18.1 South and 145.4 East. It was moving west-southwest near 33 kmh (20 mph) and had a minimum central pressure of 941 millibars. The storm is forecast to weaken and dissipate within 48 hours.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.



February 1, 2011 (Second update)

AIRS infrared image of Tropical Cyclone Yasi › View larger image
AIRS infrared image of Tropical Cyclone Yasi taken at 7:17 a.m. PST (10:17 a.m. EST) on Feb. 1, 2011. Areas colored purple represent the storm’s coldest cloud-top temperatures and areas of heaviest precipitation.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Monster Cyclone Yasi Eyes Australia in NASA Image

Mass evacuations are underway in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland in anticipation of what forecasters expect will be the largest cyclone ever to hit the continent in recorded history. Yasi has intensified rapidly and currently has winds gusting up to 295 kilometers per hour (183 mph). It is expected to maintain that intensity—equivalent to a Category Five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale--until landfall in northeastern Queensland between Cairns and Innisfail during the late evening local time on Feb. 2 (early morning Feb. 2 in the United States).

Shown here is the latest infrared image of Yasi from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite, built and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. It was taken on Feb. 1, 2011, at 7:17 a.m. PST (10:17 a.m. EST). A distinct eye is visible, and the outer bands of the storm can be seen nearing the Australian coast.

The AIRS data create an accurate 3-D map of atmospheric temperature, water vapor and clouds, data that are useful to forecasters. The image shows the temperature of Yasi's cloud tops or the surface of Earth in cloud-free regions. The coldest cloud-top temperatures appear in purple, indicating towering cold clouds and heavy precipitation. The infrared signal of AIRS does not penetrate through clouds. Where there are no clouds, AIRS reads the infrared signal from the surface of the ocean waters, revealing warmer temperatures in orange and red.

Text Credit: Alan Buis 818-354-0474, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.



February 1, 2011

rainfall map of Yasi › View larger image
The TRMM satellite measured the rainfall rates within powerful Cyclone Yasi when it passed over on Febuary 1, 2011 at 0356 UTC (Jan. 31 at 10:56 p.m. EST). Yasi had a small eye surrounded by powerful thunderstorms. The heaviest rainfall (falling at about 2 inches (50 mm) per hour) appears in red. The yellow and green areas indicate moderate rainfall between .78 to 1.57 inches (20-40 mm) per hour.
Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce
MODIS image of Yasi › View larger image
The MODIS instrument onboard NASA's Terra satellite captured a visible image of Cyclone Yasi approaching Australia (seen bottom left in image) at 00:00 UTC (7 p.m. EST Jan. 31/ 10 a.m., Feb. 1 in Australia/Brisbane local time) on February 1, 2011.
Credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team
Infrared image of Yasi › View larger image
This infrared AIRS image from NASA's Aqua satellite was captured on Feb. 1 at 0247 UTC (Jan. 31 at 9:47 p.m. EST/12:47 p.m. Australia/Brisbane local time) and the storm appears to fill up most of the Coral Sea. The western fringes of the storm were over the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu at that time. The strongest thunderstorms and heaviest rainfall appear in areas false-colored in purple. The light blue areas are out of the range of the satellite instrument and show no data.
Credit: NASA JPL, Ed Olsen
NASA Satellites Reveal Heavy Rains in Dangerous Cyclone Yasi on its Australian Approach

Several NASA satellites have been monitoring the growth of powerful and massive Cyclone Yasi and providing data on clouds, rainfall and intensity to forecasters as it nears Queensland, Australia. NASA data shows where the heaviest rainfall is occurring, frigid temperatures at the top of its thunderstorms and the size of Yasi's eye.

Tropical cyclone Yasi became much more powerful and was upgraded to a dangerous category fpur tropical cyclone on the Saffir Simpson scale on February 1, 2011.

A Cyclone Warning is now in effect for Queensland, Australia for coastal areas from Cape Melville to Sarina, extending inland to east of Croydon to Hughenden. A Cyclone Watch is in effect for coastal areas from Lockhart River to Cape Melville, and in the tropical interior north of Winton to Sarina.

Yasi was seen by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite when it passed over on Febuary 1, 2011 at 0356 UTC (Jan. 31 at 10:56 p.m. EST/1:56 p.m. Australia/Brisbane local time). TRMM precipitation data collected with that pass revealed that intensifying Yasi had a small eye surrounded by powerful thunderstorms. The heaviest rainfall was falling mostly on the south and eastern sides of the storm at a rate of about 2 inches (50 mm) per hour. Most of the rainfall in the rest of the storm was moderate, falling at a rate between .78 to 1.57 inches (20-40 mm) per hour.

The precipitation analysis used TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data and was overlaid on a visible/infrared image from TRMM's Visible and InfraRed Scanner (VIRS).

Less than one hour before, NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Cyclone Yasi and captured an infrared image of its cold clouds on Feb. 1 at 0247 UTC (Jan. 31 at 9:47 p.m. EST/12:47 p.m. local time). Infrared imagery suggests that the storm appears to fill up most of the Coral Sea, and provided scientists with a 10 nautical mile-wide eye measurement of the storm.

At the time of the AIRS image, the western fringes of the storm were exiting the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The strongest thunderstorms and heaviest rainfall were around the center of the storm, and cloud top temperatures in those areas were as cold as or colder than -63 degrees Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius)!

Another satellite passed over Cyclone Yasi earlier. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument onboard NASA's Terra satellite captured a visible image of Cyclone Yasi approaching Australia at 00:00 UTC (7 p.m. EST Jan. 31/10 a.m. local time) on February 1, 2011. Yasi's eye was visible in the image, despite some clouds wrapping into its center.

At 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST, Feb. 1 / 1 a.m. Feb. 2, Australia/Brisbane local time) on February 1, 2011, Cyclone Yasi was packing maximum sustained winds near 120 knots ( 138 mph/ 222 kmh) with higher gusts. That makes Yasi a Category four (out of five) hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Cyclone-force winds were occurring as far as 50 nm from the center. It was located about 450 miles (724 km) east-northeast of Cairns, Australia near 14.9 South and 153.2 East. It was moving west-southwest near 17 knots (~20 mph/ ~32 kmh).

Cyclone Yasi is a powerful and dangerous storm and is generating waves up to 38 feet (11.5 meters) in the Coral Sea.

Unfortunately, the system is expected to continue to intensify due to good outflow, low vertical wind shear (winds that if strong enough can weaken a tropical cyclone) and warm sea surface temperatures.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecasts that the storm will make landfall near Cairns in Queensland by Wednesday, February 2 near 1200 UTC (7 a.m. EST/10 a.m. local time ) at a provisionally forecast strength of 130 knots (149 mph/240 kmh), which is just under being classified as a Category 5 cyclone.

Residents of Queensland should check the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's website for storm updates at: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/ and should heed evacuations and emergency preparedness immediately.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro/Hal Pierce, SSAI/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.



January 31, 2011 (second update)

NASA Satellite Tracks Menacing Australian Cyclone

Read this update here.



January 31, 2011

NASA Sees Large Tropical Cyclone Yasi Headed Toward Queensland, Australia

NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of Yasi › View larger image
NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of Yasi on Jan. 30 at 23:20 UTC (6:20 p.m. EST/09:20 a.m., Monday, January 31 in Australia/Brisbane local time). Although the image did not reveal a visible eye, the storm appears to be well-formed and also appears to be strengthening.
Credit: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team
Tropical Storm Anthony made landfall in Queensland, Australia this past weekend, and now the residents are watching a larger, more powerful cyclone headed their way. NASA's Terra satellite captured a visible image of the large Tropical Cyclone Yasi late yesterday as it makes its way west through the Coral Sea toward Queensland.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of Cyclone Yasi on Jan. 30 at 23:20 UTC (6:20 p.m. EST/09:20 a.m., Monday, January 31 in Australia/Brisbane local time). Although the image did not reveal a visible eye, the storm appears to be well-formed and also appears to be strengthening.

Warnings and watches are already in effect throughout the Coral Sea. The Solomon Islands currently have a Tropical Cyclone warning for the provinces of Temotu, Rennell& Bellona, Makira and Guadalcanal. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has already posted a Tropical Cyclone Watch from Cooktown to Yeppoon and inland to between Georgetown and Moranbah in Queensland, Australia. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology expects damaging winds to develop in coastal and island communities between Cooktown and Yeppoon Wednesday morning, and inland areas on Wednesday afternoon. Updates from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology can be monitored at the Bureau's website at www.bom.gov.au.

On January 31 at 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST/ 1:00 a.m. Tuesday February 1, 2011 in Australia/Brisbane local time), Tropical Cyclone Yasi had maximum sustained winds near 90 knots (103 mph/166 kmh). Yasi is a Category Two Cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

It was centered about 875 miles E of Cairns, Australia, near 13.4 South latitude and 160.4 East longitude. It was moving west near 19 knots (22 mph/35 kmh). Cyclone-force winds extend out to 30 miles (48 km) from the center.

Animated infrared satellite imagery, such as that from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) that flies on NASA's Aqua satellite, showed deep convective (thunderstorm) bands wrapping tighter into the low level circulation center. Wrapping bands of thunderstorms indicate strengthening.

Yasi is forecast to move west then southwestward into an area of low vertical wind shear (strong wind shear can weaken a storm). Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) expect Yasi to continue strengthening over the next 36 hours. JTWC forecasts a landfall just south of Cairns as a large 100-plus knot (115 mph/185 kmh)n system by Wednesday. Residents along the Queensland coast should now be making preparations now for the storm's arrival.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.