Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hurricane Irma Satellite Images Flooding the Internet

          By Chuck Black

It's bigger and expected to be badder. But it's also terribly photogenic, newsworthy and tracked using space based assets.

As outlined in the September 7th, 2017 Washington Post article, "What’s in the path of Hurricane Irma," the storm could reach the Florida coast this weekend. For more satellite images of Hurricane Irma, check out this Google image search. Graphic c/o Washington Post

Satellite images of Hurricane Irma, currently considered to be the largest tropical cyclone ever tracked using modern methodologies, have dominated the internet in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Texas coast last week.

Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which makes Irma's almost immediate follow-on storm unexpected, at least to meteorologists and weather experts.

But Wilma was also the climax of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which included three of the top ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes ever. At the time, Wilma was considered the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic basin (its now second), Hurricane Rita was considered fourth, and Hurricane Katrina was considered seventh (even after earning notoriety as the "costliest" natural disaster in the history of the United States).

And now it looks like two more tropical storms are are forming close behind Irma. As outlined in the September 6th, 2017 Fortune Tech post, "Satellite Image Shows Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia in One Powerful Portrait," the latest satellite imagery shows the unusual sight of "three hurricanes spiraling in the Atlantic at the same time."

All three storms are currently being tracked by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The system provides atmospheric and surface measurements of the Earth’s western hemisphere for weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, space weather monitoring and meteorological research.

Three GOES satellites are currently available for operational use:
  • GOES-14, launched in June 2009 and currently parked in orbit awaiting orders from the ground. The satellite will be reactivated should one of the other GOES satellites be damaged or if extra capacity is required. 
  • GOES 15, launched in March, 2010.
GOES-16, launched in November 2016, is currently undergoing acceptance testing and is expected to be declared fully operational in November 2017.

As outlined on the August 12th, 2017 update of the Government of Canada "Satellite Images and Animation," web page, the Canadian government makes substantial use of the GOES satellites and a variety of other NOAA capabilities for weather forecasting and and other uses.

Here's hoping we never need to use those satellites to plan an evacuation and avoid a natural disaster.  That's what the American's in Texas and Florida are dealing with right now.

Until then, NOAA satellites and the other space and terrestrial based assets being used by the various weather and disaster preparedness agencies, are helping to give us a leg up on the current situation.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hurricane Irma made landfall as a maximum-strength Category Five storm late Friday, US forecasters said, after leaving a trail of death and destruction on a string of Caribbean islands.


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