Friday, August 26, 2011

NASA Infrared Satellite Imagery Shows the Power in Hurricane Irene

Infrared satellite imagery provides forecasters with the location of the highest, strongest thunderstorms that make up Hurricane Irene, and there is a large area of them.

This infrared image from the AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite shows Hurricane Irene right off the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts on August 26 at 2:59 a.m. EDT (06:59 UTC). There is a very large area of strong thunderstorms around the center of circulation and also in a large band of on the northeastern quadrant that appear in purple.
Credit: NASA/JPL/ Ed Olsen

An infrared image from NASA's Aqua satellite's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on August 26 at 2:59 a.m. EDT (06:59 UTC) shows Hurricane Irene right off the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts. The infrared data showed highest, coldest thunderstorm cloud tops in two areas. There is a very large area of strong thunderstorms around the center of circulation and also in a large band of on the northeastern quadrant. Cloud top temperatures are colder than -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius) in those areas, indicating strong thunderstorms and heavy rainmakers.

At 8 a.m. EDT this morning Hurricane Irene was centered 375 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, near 30.0 North and 77.3 West. Irene moved 0.1 degree to the west in the last 3 hours. Maximum sustained winds were near 110 mph, and Irene is moving north at 14 mph. Minimum central pressure is 945 millibars.

Radar from Wilmington, North Carolina at 9 a.m. EDT shows the outer bands of Hurricane Irene just off the southeastern North Carolina coast and moving toward the shorelines.

The National Hurricane Center notes that some re-intensification is possible today and Irene is expected to be near the threshold between category two and three as it reaches the North Carolina coast.

Irene has continued to grow over the last week. Irene is now almost 600 miles wide. Tropical storm force winds extend 290 miles from the center. Hurricane force winds extend to 90 miles from the center or 180 miles in diameter.

There are hurricane warnings up and down the U.S. East coast, from South Carolina to New York. Coastal areas are under hurricane watches and warnings and interior areas tend to be under Tropical Storm Warnings and watches.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) notes that "a tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds...conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous."

Rainfall is a serious issue with Irene as she is expected to generate rainfall accumulations of 6 to 10 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches from Eastern North Carolina into Southeastern Virgina, eastern Maryland, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, southeastern New York, Long Island, Western Connecticut, and western Massachusetts through Monday morning.

The NHC said that dangerous storm surge levels as much as 11 feet are possible in the warning area in North Carolina, and up to 8 feet in southern portions of the Chesapeake Bay. The New Jersey shore can expect surges up to 6 feet above ground level. Updated forecasts available through the NHC at www.nhc.noaa.gov.

Follow updates from NASA Hurricane on facebook and twitter and at www.nhc.noaa.govwww.nasa.gov/hurricane.

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

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