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Hurricane Season 2012: Lua (Southern Indian Ocean)
03.19.12
 
TRMM satellite data showing rainfall totals in Cyclone Lua from March 17-19. › View larger image
NASA's TRMM satellite can add up rainfall totals from space, and from March 17-19 Cyclone Lua, and it appeared the heaviest rainfall appeared just off the northwestern Australia coast, with rainfall amounts reaching as high as 20 inches/~500 mm (purple). Rainfall amounts seemed to fall off drastically as Lua made landfall with amounts ranging between 4 and 8 inches (~100 to 200 mm) appearing in yellow/green.
Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce
MODIS passed over Tropical Cyclone Lau on March 17 and captured this image before its center made landfall › View larger image
When NASA's Terra satellite passed over Tropical Cyclone Lau on March 17 at 0220 UTC it captured this visible image of the storm hours before its center made landfall along northern Australia's Pilbara coast.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
NASA Satellites See Rainfall Left Behind from Cyclone Lua's Landfall

NASA's TRMM satellite added up the rainfall generated from Cyclone Lua as it made landfall in northern Australia on March 17, and tracked southward through March 19. The largest rainfall amounts appeared just off the coast before Lua made landfall, and continued generating heavy rainfall as it moved inland.

On Saturday, March 17, 2012, Lua's center crossed the Australia coastline at Pardoo about 3 p.m. (local time/Australia) bringing winds gusting up to 155 mph (250 kph) and heavy rainfall. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Port Hedland residents experienced maximum sustained winds up to 93 mph (150 kph).

On March 18, 2012, Cyclone Lua continued to move further inland and track south toward Wiluna and Kalgoorlie. At 8 a.m. local time on March 18, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology estimated that Tropical Cyclone Lua was about 137 miles (~220 kilometers) north of Wiluna and was moving south at ~19 mph (30 kph).

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite can add up rainfall totals from space. As it flew over Cyclone Lua between March 17and 19, TRMM calculated rainfall from the storm. The heaviest rainfall appeared to fall just off the northwestern Australia coast, with rainfall amounts there reaching as high as 20 inches (~500 mm). Rainfall amounts seemed to fall off drastically as Lua made landfall, with amounts ranging between 4 and 8 inches (~100 to 200 mm).

Reuters news reported that the sparsely populated area seemed unscathed, there were no injuries and iron ore operations resumed. Port Hedland is the area's largest iron ore terminal and its anchorage was closed for more than two days as Lua made landfall.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported that Cyclone Lua was the strongest cyclone to hit Australia in 2012, and the most powerful since Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

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






Mar. 16, 2012

On March 15 at 1741 UTC and March 16 at 0553 UTC AIRS captured infrared images of Tropical Cyclone Lau. › View larger image
When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over northern Australia on March 15 at 1741 UTC and March 16 at 0553 UTC it captured infrared images of Tropical Cyclone Lau. The later image appeared to show that Lau was becoming more organized and more compact, signs that the storm was strengthening. Over that time period the storm had grown from a tropical storm to a cyclone. Aqua captured an infrared image of the storm's cloud top temperatures using the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. AIRS data showed that the coldest (purple) cloud top temperatures (colder than -63F/-52.7C).
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
On March 16 at 0553 UTC AIRS captured this visible image of Tropical Cyclone Lau approaching the Pilbara coast. › View larger image
When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Tropical Cyclone Lau on March 16 at 0553 UTC it captured this visible image of the storm approaching the Pilbara coast.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
NASA Sees Cyclone Lua Strengthening for March 17 Landfall

Northern Australia's Pilbara coast is under warnings, alerts and watches as powerful Cyclone Lua nears for a landfall. NASA's Aqua satellite has been providing infrared, visible and microwave data on Lua that have shown forecasters the storm is strengthening on its approach to land.

Two of the most recent infrared images of Cyclone Lua were captured from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument onboard NASA's Aqua satellite. The AIRS instrument captured infrared images of Cyclone Lua on March 15 at 1741 UTC and March 16 at 0553 UTC. The later image appeared to show that Lau was becoming more organized and more compact, signs that the storm was strengthening. Bands of thunderstorms are also wrapping into the low-level center, another sign of strengthening. Over that time period the storm had grown from a tropical storm to a cyclone. Aqua captured an infrared image of the storm's cloud top temperatures using the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. AIRS data showed that the coldest (purple) cloud top temperatures (colder than -63F/-52.7C).

The list of warnings, watches and alerts are numerous. A Cyclone Warning is current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Dampier, including Port Hedland, Karratha, Dampier and Broome, as well as inland parts of the eastern Pilbara and far western Kimberley. A Cyclone Watch is current for the central and eastern inland Pilbara including Telfer, Newman and Paraburdoo, the western inland Kimberley, the eastern Gascoyne including Meekatharra, and the far western Interior.

Yellow and Blue Alerts are also in effect. A Yellow Alert is in effect for residents between Broome and Whim Creek including Bidyadanga, Port Hedland, South Hedland, Warralong, Yande Yarra, Marble Bar and adjacent pastoral and mining leases. A Blue Alert is in effect for residents in coastal communities between Whim Creek and Dampier including Karratha, Dampier, Roebourne, Wickham and Point Samson as well as inland communities including Nullagine, Newman and Jigalong and surrounding pastoral and mining leases.

ABC Online Melboure reports that flights have been canceled and roads have been closed. Officials have also closed Karijini National Park because of flash flooding risk.

On March 16, 2012 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EST), Tropical cyclone Lua's maximum sustained winds were near 75 knots (86 mph/139 kph). Cyclone-force winds extended out 30 nautical miles (34.5 miles/55.5 km) from the center, while tropical storm-force winds extended out to 160 nautical miles (184 miles/296.3 km) from the center.

Lua was located near 16.5 South and 116.6 East, about 260 miles north-northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. Lua was moving to the east-southeast at 10 knots (11.5 mph/18.5 kph).

Lua is forecast to strengthen to 90 knots (103.6 mph/166.7 kph) before making landfall around midday (local time) on March 17 just north of Port Hedland. By March 19, Lua is expected to dissipate in central or southern Western Australia. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is issuing updates every three hours. To see the updates, visit: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/.

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



Mar. 15, 2012

On March 15, 2012 MODIS captured Lua when it was about 400 nautical miles northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. › View larger image
On March 15, 2012 at 02:31 UTC, the MODIS instrument onboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured this visible image of Cyclone Lua when it was about 400 nautical miles northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. Lua strengthened into a Cyclone today.
Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
Now a Cyclone, NASA Sees Lua Closer to a Landfall in Northern Australia

Warnings are in effect and evacuations have taken place along the northern Australia coast near Port Hedland. NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Lau as it strengthened into a Cyclone today, March 15, 2012.

On March 15, 2012 at 02:31 UTC, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument onboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible image of Cyclone Lua when it was about 400 nautical miles northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. In the image, the bulk of clouds and showers appear to be over the northern and western quadrants of the storm. Satellite imagery shows that Cyclone Lua is consolidating and has tightly-curved bands of thunderstorms wrapping into its center.

A Cyclone warning is now in effect for coastal areas from Bidyadanga to Mardie, including Port Hedland, Karratha and Dampier. A Cyclone Watch has been posted for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Bidyadanga including Broome, and the eastern inland Pilbara including Newman and Telfer. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is issuing updates every three hours. To see the updates, visit: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/.

Bloomberg Business reports the Chevron Corporation is evacuating workers along Australia's northwest coast from gas projects and are moving iron ore ships out to sea. Fox Business noted today, March 15, that Port Hedland has begun evacuating personnel and is preparing to shut down as Lua heads toward the Pilbara coast.

On March 15, 2012 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EST) Tropical cyclone Lua's maximum sustained winds had increased to 65 knots (75 mph/120 kph). It was centered near 15.7 South latitude and 113.0 East longitude, about 435 miles northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. It is generating very rough seas as it moves slowly toward the coast.

Cyclone Lua was moving to the west at 5 knots (5.7 mph/9.2 kph) and is expected to move toward the southeast in the next day. Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center explained how Lua's direction will change later on March 15, "Lua is located within a competing steering environment but is expected to track east-southeastward to southeastward under the steering influence of the near equatorial ridge (elongated area of high pressure) as the subtropical ridge, positioned to the southwest, weakens and retrogrades over the next 24 hours."

Cyclone Lua is expected to continue strengthening to as much as 95 knots (109 mph/ 176 kph) before making landfall in the vicinity of Port Hedland on March 17 around mid-day local time. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a statement on March 15 around 12 p.m. EST (1:30 a.m. March 16, Darwin local time) that noted "[Cyclone Lua] is expected to accelerate towards the east Pilbara coast during Friday. Lua is expected to intensify into a severe tropical cyclone overnight and remain severe through to landfall."

As Lua nears, residents should make preparations for heavy rainfall, cyclone-force winds, and expect very rough surf along the east Pilbara and west Kimberley coastlines.

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



Mar. 14, 2012

TRMM showed thunderstorm towers in feeder bands located to the southwest and northeast of Lua's center › View larger image
The area covered by TRMM's Precipitation Radar on March 13, 2012 showed thunderstorm towers in feeder (thunderstorm) bands located to the southwest and northeast of Cyclone Lua's center reached heights of almost 15km (9.3 miles), indicating strong thunderstorms.
Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce
NASA's TRMM satellite measured rainfall rates in Cyclone Lua on March 13. › View larger image
NASA's TRMM satellite measured rainfall rates in Cyclone Lua on March 13. Heavy rain, falling at a rate of over 50mm per hr / ~2 inches would be depicted in red, but none was seen at the time of this image. Light to moderate rainfall is depicted in blue and green was falling at a rate between .78 to 1.57 inches (20 to 40 mm) per hour. Lua is predicted to circle back toward the northwestern coast of Australia and attain minimal hurricane force winds on 15 March 2012. Lua's predicted track with appropriate symbols is shown.
Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce
NASA's TRMM Satellite Sees Tropical Storm Lua's Rainfall

A tropical storm called Lua formed in the Indian Ocean off Australia's northwestern coast on March 13, 2012. NASA's TRMM satellite passed over Lua and observed moderate rainfall and strong towering thunderstorms within on March 13. By March 14, it was turning back toward Australia and storm warnings had been posted.

The area of Australia where Cyclone Lua is located is sparsely populated, but Lua caused the shutdown of over one quarter of the country's crude oil production.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite flew over that area on March 13, 2012 at 1622 UTC (12:22 p.m. EDT). A rainfall analysis was conducted at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. using TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) instruments. It was overlaid on an enhanced infrared image from TRMM's Visible and InfraRed Scanner (VIRS) and showed that rainfall intensity was mainly in the moderate range of 20 to 30 mm/hr (~0.8 to 1.2 inches/hr). The area covered by TRMM's Precipitation Radar (PR) did not include Lua's center of circulation but storm towers in feeder bands southwest and northeast of the storm reached to heights of almost 15 km (9.3 miles).

Lua is predicted to circle back toward the northwestern coast of Australia and attain minimal hurricane force winds on March 15, 2012.

On March 14 at 1500 UTC (11 a.m. EDT), Tropical Storm Lua's maximum sustained winds were near 50 knots (57.5 mph/92.6 kph). It was located about 425 nautical miles (489 miles/787 km) northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. It was centered near 15.6 South and 112.9 East. Lua is moving to the northeast near 5 knots (5.7 mph/9.3 kph) but is expected to turn to the southeast and head toward land.

Infrared satellite imagery shows that the strongest convection (rising air that forms thunderstorms that make up the cyclone) is consolidating and strengthening. There is also some drier air moving into the storm's center and easterly vertical wind shear has increased to around 20 knots (23 mph/37.0). Both of those factors are limiting the storm's ability to intensify more. The wind shear is forecast to weaken over the next day, allowing Cyclone Lua to strengthen before it makes landfall.

Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center expect the storm to reach peak wind speeds of up to 90 knots (103 mph/168 kph) before landfall and hold together inland as a tropical cyclone all the way to the Gibson Desert.

Currently, communities in Western Australia's Pilbara and Kimberley regions are on alert. Cyclone Lua has now prompted a Cyclone Watch from Cape Leveque to Mardie, Western Australia. According to the latest forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Cyclone Lua is moving north, but will turn to the southeast and strengthen into a cyclone before making landfall north of Port Hedland on Friday, March 16.

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



Mar. 13, 2012

Aqua captured two tropical disturbances close enough to appear on one image. › View larger image
When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over northern Australia on March 12 at 1711 UTC and March 13 at 0539 UTC it captured two tropical disturbances close enough to appear on one image. Tropical Cyclone Lau in on the left side of the image and is in the Southern Indian Ocean, while System 96P is pictured right, and is in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Aqua captured an infrared image of both storms' cloud top temperatures using the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. AIRS data showed that the coldest (purple) cloud top temperatures (colder than -63F/-52.7C).
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
On March 13, 2012 MODIS captured this visible image of Tropical Cyclone Lua over Western Australia. › View larger image
On March 13, 2012 at 0245 UTC, the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite captured this visible image of Tropical Cyclone Lua (17S) over Western Australia. The highest, strongest thunderstorms appear to be on the southern side of the circulation, as the higher storms are casting shadows on the lower surrounding clouds.
Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
NASA Sees Double Tropical Trouble in Northern Australia

Northern Australia is dealing with two tropical systems today, and both were close enough to be captured on one satellite image. One of them has strengthened enough to be named Tropical Cyclone Lua, while the other is still getting organized and is a tropical low pressure area. The unnamed storm is currently close enough to the coast to generate warnings, while Lua is not.

When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over northern Australia on March 12 at 1711 UTC and March 13 at 0539 UTC it captured the two tropical disturbances close enough to appear on one image. Tropical Cyclone Lau appears on the left side of both days of satellite imagery, while System 96P appears on the right side of the images. Lua is located in the Southern Indian Ocean, while System 96P is in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Both systems seemed to grow closer over the two days and both are affecting coastal areas in northern Australia on March 13.

Aqua captured an infrared image of both storms' cloud top temperatures using the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. AIRS data showed that the coldest cloud top temperatures were colder than -63F/-52.7C around the center of circulation in both systems.

Tropical cyclone Lua formed off the northern coast of Western Australia. On March 13, it was a minimum tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 35 knots (~40 mph/~65 kph). It was located about 240 miles west-northwest of Port Hedland, Australia, near 18.4 South and 115.0 East. It was barely moving at 2 knots (~2 mph/~4 kph) to the west-northwest, but is expected to turn to the east-southeast in a day or two. Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center expect Lua to meander for a day or two before intensifying before making landfall in the Pilbara region sometime on March 16. There are currently no warnings posted yet for Tropical Storm Lua, but that is likely to change over the next couple of days.

Located to the east of Tropical Storm Lua, and in the Southern Pacific Ocean is System 96P. Although not a tropical storm, System 96P is closer to land and has caused watches and warnings to go up. There is currently a high seas weather warning for "Metarea 10/11" and a Coastal Waters Wind Warning for waters from Cape Don to Kuri Bay.

At 1200 UTC (8 a.m. EST/8:00 p.m. Australia WST) the tropical low known as System 96P was located near 12.9 South and 128.0 East, about 170 nautical miles west of Darwin and 115 nautical miles northwest of Port Keats. It was moving south at 4 knots (4.6 mph/7.4 kph).

AIRS infrared satellite imagery showed that deep convection (rising air that forms the thunderstorms that make up the tropical cyclone) is growing in size around the low-level circulation center. There are also bands of thunderstorms spiraling into the low's center. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted weather observations from nearby Troughton Island, located southwest of the center, showed a 10-minute sustained wind speed as high as 20 knots (23 mph/37 kph).

System 96P is in an area of warm sea surface temperatures and is getting organized. Forecasters at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Joint Typhoon Warning Center agree that it may become a tropical depression within the next day. The low is expected to curve towards the southeast for a landfall south of Port Keats late on March 14, or early on March 15. Residents from Dundee Beach to Port Keats to Kalamburu should monitor this storm closely and expect heavy rainfall, gusty winds, and rough surf along beaches.

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



Mar. 12, 2012

On March 12 AIRS detected a large area of cold cloud top temperatures around the center of 95S. › View larger image
NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the western half of System 95S on March 12 at 0623 UTC and the AIRS instrument detected a large area of cold cloud top temperatures around the storm's center. Temperatures were as cold as -63 Fahrenheit (-52.7 Celsius) and appear on the image in purple.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
NASA Sees Tropical Low Affecting Northern Australia

The tropical low pressure area called System 95S is not yet classified as a tropical depression, but appears to be getting organized enough to generate some wind warnings in Northern Australia. NASA's Aqua satellite imagery revealed that the low is consolidating, and forecasters believe it may become a depression in a day or two.

Strong Wind Warnings are currently in effect from Cape Don to Wyndham, in Western Australia and for the waters from Daly River Mouth to Wyndham.

At 1200 UTC (8 a.m. EST/8:00 p.m. Australia WST), System 95S was near 18.5 South and 114.0 East, about 110 nautical miles (126.6 miles/203.7 km) west northwest of Cape Fourcroy. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology cited that System 95S is now west of the Tiwi Islands. That puts the center of the low about 170 nautical miles (195.6 miles/314.8 km) west-northwest of Darwin. It was moving slowly to the southwest at around 4 knots (4.6 mph/7.4 kph). Winds from the west are expected to turn the low sharply southeast toward the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf on March 13.

When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the western half of System 95S on March 12 at 0623 UTC (2:23 a.m. EST) the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument detected a large area of cold cloud top temperatures around the storm's center. Temperatures were as cold as -63 Fahrenheit (-52.7 Celsius), indicating very high, powerful thunderstorms that reached the higher levels of the troposphere. Those cold temperatures indicated the storms were strong, and likely had heavy rainfall. AIRS data also indicated the low-level circulation center was consolidating and organizing as bands of thunderstorms were forming around the center. That's another sign of a storm strengthening and getting organized.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology expects 95S to develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 30 to 42 hours. Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center give System 95S a medium chance of development in the next 24 hours.

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