NASA Looks Within Category 5 Hurricane Maria Before and After First Landfall
Satellite data is enabling forecasters to look inside and outside of powerful Hurricane Maria. A NASA animation of satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria's first landfall on the island of Dominica. NASA's GPM satellite provided a 3-D look at the storms within that gave forecasters a clue to Maria strengthening into a Category 5 storm, and NASA's Aqua satellite gathered temperature data on the frigid cloud tops of the storm.
This image of Category 5 Hurricane Maria moving through the eastern Caribbean Sea was taken on Sept. 19 at 11 a.m. EDT from NOAA's GOES East satellite.
Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Maria's First Landfall
On Monday, Sept. 18 at 9:35 p.m. AST/EDT the National Hurricane Center reported that Maria made landfall on Dominica as a category 5 hurricane. Radar data from Martinique and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft reports indicated that Maria made landfall on Dominica around 9:15 p.m. AST/EDT (0115 UTC) with estimated winds of 160 mph (260 kph). Dominica is an island in the Caribbean Sea that has mountainous terrain, natural hot springs and tropical rainforests.
NASA Puts Maria's Past Track in Motion
An animation of NOAA's GOES East satellite imagery from Sept. 15 at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 UTC) to Sept. 19 ending at 4:45 a.m. EDT (0845 UTC) showed Hurricane Jose moving north along the U.S. East coast and Hurricane Maria move through the Leeward Islands and strengthen to a Category 5 hurricane. The animation shows Maria's landfall in Domenica. The imagery revealed a clear, cloudless eye.
This animation of NOAA's GOES East satellite imagery from Sept. 15 at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 UTC) to Sept. 19 ending at 4:45 a.m. EDT (0845 UTC) shows Hurricane Jose moving north along the U.S. East coast and Hurricane Maria moving through the Leeward Islands and strengthening to a Category 5 hurricane.
Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
NOAA manages the GOES Series of satellites. The animation was created by the NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
NASA's 3-D Look at Maria
On Sept. 18, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite saw an impressively tall cell of precipitation in Hurricane Maria that stretched into the lower stratosphere at 16.75 km altitude.
Credits: NASA / JAXA, Owen Kelley
Also at NASA Goddard, a 3-D image of Hurricane Maria was made to understand what was happening within the storm. The dual-frequency radar on the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite saw an impressively tall thunderstorms cell of precipitation in the compact eyewall of Hurricane Maria on Monday, Sept.18, 2017. "Enough water vapor was condensing into rain inside of this cell that rapid updrafts developed, rapid enough to lift the precipitation until it froze and then even higher until it penetrated into the lower stratosphere at 16.75 km altitude," said Owen Kelley of NASA Goddard's Precipitation Processing System..
"This tall cell (also known as a "hot tower") was part of a sequence of such cells that were seen by infrared satellite instruments, such as the one on the recently launched GOES-16 satellite. Meanwhile, Maria put on an unexpectedly fast intensification from category 1 to category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale on Monday (Sept. 18)."
Research conducted at NASA, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and elsewhere suggests that a sequence of hot towers, also known as a "convective burst," is one a way to detect that a hurricane's heat engine going into high gear. The end result is intensified winds circling the eye at the ocean's surface.
Maria continued to intensify after GPM passed overhead and reached Category 5 status that night.
A Stunning Infrared View of Maria
On Sept. 19 at 2:15 a.m. EDT (0615 UTC) the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite analyzed Maria's cloud top temperatures in infrared light.
This infrared image of Hurricane Maria's frigid cloud top temperatures was captured by the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on Sept. 19 at 2:15 a.m. EDT (0615 UTC) as it moved through the Leeward Islands.
MODIS found cloud top temperatures of strong thunderstorms in Maria's eyewall as cold as or colder than minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62.2 Celsius). Cloud top temperatures that cold indicate strong storms that have the capability to create heavy rain.
Warnings and Watches in Effect
The National Hurricane Center warned "potentially catastrophic Hurricane Maria continues west-northwestward toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico."
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Anguilla and Martinique.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, Anguilla, Isla Saona to Puerto Plata.
Maria's Location and Status on Sept. 19
At 11 a.m. AST/EDT (1500 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Maria was located near 16.3 degrees north latitude and 63.1 degrees west longitude. That's about 115 miles (180 k) west of Guadeloupe and about 150 miles (240 km) southeast of St. Croix.
Maria was moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 kph), and this general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday night, Sept. 20. Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph (260 kph) with higher gusts. Maria is a potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane until it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The minimum central pressure based on data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 927 millibars.
On the forecast track, the eye of Maria will move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea today, Sept. 19 and then pass near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
For updates and effects on wind, storm surge and rainfall, visit: www.nhc.noaa.gov.
Sep. 18, 2017 – NASA Sees Maria Intensify into a Major Hurricane
NASA and NOAA satellites have provided data on Maria as it strengthened into a major Hurricane headed toward the Leeward Islands. NASA's Aqua satellite provided an infrared look at Maria that showed cooling cloud top temperatures and NOAA's GOES satellite provided an animation of imagery that showed the storm developing and strengthening. The GPM satellite found "Hot" towering clouds that indicated strengthening was occurring before Maria became a major hurricane.
This animation of NOAA's GOES East satellite imagery from Sept. 14 at 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 UTC) to Sept. 18 ending at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 UTC). The animation shows Hurricane Jose moving north along the U.S. East coast, the development strengthening of Hurricane Maria and its approach to the Leeward Islands, and Tropical Depression Lee in the Eastern Atlantic. TRT: 00:08
Credits: NASA-NOAA GOES Project
Warnings and Watches on Sept. 18
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a Hurricane Warning for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, Martinique, St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Anguilla.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
On Saturday, Sept. 16 the National Hurricane Center was watching Potential Tropical Cyclone Fifteen. The depression formed at 2 p.m. EDT that day. Three hours later it strengthened into a tropical storm and was named "Maria." At 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 17, Maria strengthened into a hurricane and continued to strengthen.
GPM Finds "Hot Towers" in Maria Before Strengthening
On Sept. 17, 2017 at 1001 p.m. EDT the GPM core satellite showed that Maria found rain falling at a rate of over 6.44 inches (163.7 mm) per hour in powerful storms northeast of Maria's eye. Intense thunderstorms were found towering to above 9.7 miles (15.7 km).
Credits: NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce
The Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM) core observatory satellite had an excellent view of hurricane Maria when it passed almost directly above the hurricane on Sept. 17, 2017 at 1001 p.m. AST/EDT (Sept. 18 0201 UTC). GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) showed that Maria had well defined bands of precipitation rotating around the eye of the tropical cyclone. GPM's radar (DPR Ku band) found rain falling at a rate of over 6.44 inches (163.7 mm) per hour in one of these extremely powerful storms northeast of Maria's eye.
NASA obtained a look at Maria's precipitation structure using data from GPM's Radar (DPR Ku band). Intense thunderstorms were found towering to above 9.7 miles (15.7 km). This kind of chimney cloud, also called a "hot tower" (as it releases a huge quantity of latent heat by condensation). These tall thunderstorms in the eye wall are often a sign that a tropical cyclone is becoming more powerful.
About Hot Towers
A "hot tower" is a tall cumulonimbus cloud near the center of a tropical cyclone, often seen prior to intensification. The cloud tops reach at least to the top of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere which is approximately 9 miles/14.5 km high in the tropics. These towers are called "hot" because they rise to such altitude due to the large amount of latent heat. Water vapor releases this latent heat as it condenses into liquid. Those towering thunderstorms have the potential for heavy rain. Energy released by rainfall into the center of a tropical cyclone provides the energy upon which tropical cyclones thrive.
Cloud Top Temperatures Show Strengthening
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite analyzed Hurricane Maria in infrared light. Infrared light provides scientists with temperature data and that's important when trying to understand how strong storms can be. The higher the cloud tops, the colder and the stronger they are. So infrared light as that gathered by the AIRS instrument can identify the strongest sides of a tropical cyclone.
On Sept. 18 at 1:35 a.m. EDT (0535 UTC) the AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured this false-colored infrared image of Hurricane Maria. Some cloud top temperatures in strong storms were as cold minus 81.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63.1 degrees Celsius). Credit:
Credits: NASA JPL, Ed Olsen
When NASA's Aqua satellite flew over Maria on Sept. 18 at 1:35 a.m. EDT (0535 UTC) AIRS detected that cloud top temperatures had cooled indicating they were higher into the atmosphere. Cloud top temperatures were as cold as minus 81.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63.1 degrees Celsius). Storms with cloud top temperatures that cold have the capability to produce heavy rainfall.
Satellite View of Maria Strengthening Over Time
This visible image of Hurricane Maria was taken from NOAA's GOES East satellite on Sept. 18 at 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 UTC) as it strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane just east of the Leeward Islands.
Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. the NASA/NOAA GOES Project created an animation of NOAA's GOES East satellite imagery from Sept. 14 at 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 UTC) to Sept. 18 ending at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 UTC). The animation shows Hurricane Jose moving north along the U.S. East coast, the development strengthening of Hurricane Maria and its approach to the Leeward Islands, and Tropical Depression Lee in the Eastern Atlantic.
NHC noted the estimated central pressure inside the 10 nautical mile-wide eye has fallen to 959 millibars. The small eye is also apparent in radar data from Martinique.
Maria's Status on Sept. 18
The NHC said at 11 a.m. AST/EDT (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Maria was located near 14.7 degrees north latitude and 60.1 degrees west longitude.
Maria was moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 kph), and this motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, Sept. 19. On the forecast track, the center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands late today and tonight, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea Tuesday and Tuesday night, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120 mph (195 kph) with higher gusts. Maria is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 km). The minimum central pressure estimated from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft data is 959 millibars.
NHC expects Maria's eye to move through the Leeward Islands during the afternoon or evening today, Sept. 18.
For updates on Maria, visit: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Last Updated: Sept. 19, 2017
Editor: Lynn Jenner
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SOURCE : nasa.gov/feature