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September 07, 2004 - (date of web publication)

Seeing Hurricanes As Only NASA Can


Hurricane Frances - Item 1

GOES satellite sees Frances
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In this sequence captured by the GOES-East spacecraft, we can see the highly organized structure and remarkable size of Hurricane Frances as it grinds its way through the tropical waters of the Caribbean. Credit: NASA/NOAA

TRMM Reveals Rainfall Rates Inside Frances- Items 2 and 3

 still from TRMM 3-D animation still from TRMM animation         Quicktime version  | Higher resolution still                          Quicktime version | High resolution still

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NASA's TRMM satellite (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) can see hurricanes in three dimensions. 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. The tall spires or "hot towers" suggest an efficient and powerful heat engine inside the storm, emphasizing to experts just how powerful this particular tropical beast may be. Credit: NASA/NASDA

Taking Frances’ Temperature- Item 4



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

Click on image to view animation.
Quicktime version

Credit: NASA

In this sequence we see data gathered by an instrument on the Aqua satellite. The sequence starts in January when 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. Credit: NASA

Unexpected Origins - Item 5

Still from the genesis of Isabel animation
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This animation follows 2003’s Hurricane Isabel from its surprising birthplace in the Ethiopian Highlands of East Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean, and to the United States. Note how Isabel gains size and speed over the warm waters of the Atlantic. Credit: NASA

Checking Under the Hood of a Hurricane - Items 6, 7 and 8

still from animation showing the track of Isabel another still from the animation of Isabel last still from the animation of how Isabel was dissected

               Quicktime version                         Quicktime version | High resolution            Quicktime version | High resolution

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As Isabel cruises across the Atlantic and changes in intensity, the distribution of rainfall and heat inside the storm is fluctuating dramatically. The “warm core” of the hurricane (inset window) is the engine that drives the storm, allowing it to draw up energy from the ocean, gathering strength and size. Credit: NASA

Hurricane Heat Engine- Item 9

still from animation of the Colding Engine
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A powerful storm churns up colder, deeper waters and leaves a trail of cool in its wake. If another storm comes along and intersects with this cold water trail, it's likely to lose significant strength due to the fact that the colder water does not contain as much potential energy as warm water. Credit: NASA

Modeling the Perfect Storm - Item 10

Image of Atlas model
Credit: NASA
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A recent improvement in hurricane modeling techniques is just starting to emerge from NASA, promising great strides in understanding these giant storms. In this sequence showing five days in the life of Hurricane Isabel, you can see how closely the artificial storm (in green) matches the real world observations (in yellow) as it actually happened. Credit: NASA

NASA's Earth-Observing Fleet- Item 11

Image of TRMM satellite
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This new insight into hurricane formation and structure would not be possible without a dedicated fleet of space-based observatories. By combining the unique assets of several distinct federal agencies, scientists have been able to extract information and insight into the structure and processes of hurricane behavior that otherwise would have been impossible prior to a space faring era. Credit: NASA

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