NASA Satellites Watch as Hurricane Harvey Intensifies Off Texas Coast

What started out as the remnants of a tropical storm could become the worst hurricane to hit Texas in nearly 50 years and the first Category 3 hurricane to hit the United States in almost 12 years, the Weather Channel reports.

On Wednesday (Aug. 23), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) upgraded the scattered storm remnants to a tropical depression, and by Thursday (Aug. 24) it started to shape up as a large “tropical cyclone” over the Gulf of Mexico. As always, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are monitoring the weather event from space with Earth-observing satellites.

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NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM) satellite flew over the area on Wednesday morning and detected areas of heavy rainfall in the clouds of Tropical Storm Harvey, with some regions experiencing more than 1.96 inches (50 millimeters) of rain per hour — a number that will likely climb, NASA officials said in a statement. “The heavy rainfall that the GPM core satellite observed continued to build, and on Aug. 24, the NHC noted that rainfall totals are expected to be tremendous.” In a public weather advisory, the NHC said that parts of Texas could accumulate up to 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rainfall. 

On Wednesday (Aug. 23), the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core satellite saw thunderstorms spiraling in from the southern side of Harvey, where rainfall rates exceeded 1.96 inches (50 mm) per hour.

Another NASA satellite, GOES East (formerly GOES-13), has been keeping an eye on the storm from its geosynchronous orbit over the U.S. East Coast. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, created an animation of the storm’s development from Tuesday (Aug. 22) to Thursday (Aug. 24).

“The animation showed the movement of Harvey as a remnant low-pressure area moving off the Yucatan Peninsula, re-forming into a tropical depression and now into a hurricane in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico,” NASA officials said. The storm is now moving northwest toward Texas and is expected to make landfall either Friday night (Aug. 25) or early Saturday (Aug. 26).

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