Putting the eye in Irene

By Phil Plait | August 25, 2011 9:26 am

Over the past few days, hurricane Irene has grown as it approaches the United States. The NASA/NOAA Earth-observing GOES 13 satellite has been keeping an eye on the storm, and images it has taken have been put together into this dramatic video showing Irene from August 23 at 10:40 UTC to 48 hours later… just a few hours ago as I write this:

Pay attention about 20 seconds into the video (August 23 at about 20:00 according to the clock at the top of the video). You can see the eye wall region burst into existence, and a few seconds later the eye itself suddenly appears. Also, a surge of white clouds appears to the right of the eye and wraps around the hurricane. That’s where warm air has risen strongly, overshooting the cloud tops, and producing intense rainfall (5 cm/hour according to TRMM!). Overshooting tops, as they’re called, happen frequently in tropical storms as they intensify. For what it’s worth, something like that happens in stars as well as hot plasma rises rapidly from under the surface, though astronomers tend to call it "convective overshoot".

Irene is currently a strong Category 3 hurricane (with sustained winds at 200 kph (120 mph)), and is expected to start affecting the east coast today. If you live along the coast, take precautions, and please, stay safe.

Video credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellaneous, Pretty pictures

Comments (19)

Links to this Post

  1. Putting the eye in Irene - Chaosbutterfly | August 25, 2011
  2. Teaching Science 2.0 » Hurricane Irene | August 25, 2011
  1. Ekaterina Markova

    The quietest sun in 100 years is awakening. The most benign weather in memory is reverting to default status. Enviro-whiner screams of thermal apocalypse (Greenhouse Effect, Global Warming, Climate Change) are to be met with 1950-60s crappy cold wet climate. The Carbon Tax on Everything has Officially done its job. Double it!

    Washington, DC was gifted with a lovely temblor where no earthquake Officially belonged. 20 inches of rain added by this time next week would not be unappreciated. The universe has its own way of dealing with liars: entropy.

  2. Bryan D

    I’m in Wilmington NC so this is just going to whiff me. Oddly I kinda wish it would strike a little closer so it would spare the rest of the coast some misery, we’re at least kind of used to it and prepared down here.

  3. Chris A.

    I’m fascinated by the way the outer parts of the hurricane rotate in the opposite sense as the inner parts. Trying to grep that in the context of Coriolis force…

  4. Robin Byron

    Got the big wave board out of mothballs and it’s all waxed up and ready to go. Now, if only we had a nice reef break for large waves here in Northeastern SC.

  5. It’s raining on me right now. The outer fringes are over head in Miami.

  6. K

    Yup. The rain bands started this morning and the wind has picked up. It’ll get worse before it gets better, but hey, it’s just another day in paradise. Ya’ll enjoy your snow and cold in a couple of months.

  7. Doug

    Looks like it’s just a simple (though large) cloud to me.

    Of course, the closest I’ve been to a hurricane is about 1000mi, give or take. I don’t think I’ll ever really gain an appreciation for the power of hurricanes until I’ve been up close and personal to one.

  8. Wzrd1

    Some of the storm track predictions push it pretty far inland, enough to hit Lancaster County, PA. Others, pretty much over Philadelphia.
    If it takes those tracks, a LOT of inland areas of a handful of states are going to get significant flooding.
    Well, we’ll see which track it eventually DOES take. Anywhere from really annoying to REALLY expensive. One can only hope that nobody is injured.
    But, no fear, we’ll soon enough not be getting these views, as NOAA didn’t get funding for their replacement satellites. Just as the DoD didn’t get the funding to replace the end of life GPS constellations.

  9. QuietDesperation

    and please, stay safe.

    Nonsense! Run into the teeth of the storm and DEFY NATURE!

    Then post the hilarious YouTube video.

  10. Wzrd1

    I defy nature every day. I stand upright.

  11. Sean

    I would blame Leighann Lord for the earthquake and Irene but I’m not that brave.

  12. Archwright

    And I married someone of the same sex.
    Yeah! Take that, nature!

  13. Wzrd1

    @Archwright, married a different sex, but together, we’re totally unnatural! ūüėČ

    No matter what, I don’t want to hear squat from that hurricane on Saturday night during the new Doctor Who!

  14. bassmanpete

    For me it’s the suspense that’s the killer. We went through Yasi earlier this year in FNQ; 130kms from the centre but still pretty intense when it’s a category 5. Watched the satellite images of it building for over a week and it was hard on the nerves (I’m of a nervous disposition!) wondering where it would eventually make landfall.

    We are in a valley and, as it turned out, were a bit sheltered. Lots of trees came down around us but a heck of a lot more copped it just a couple of hundred metres away up on the ridge behind us. I feel for any of you in the path of Irene and hope you all come through it unscathed.

  15. Ferdstripe

    I appreciate the resulting tracks that model projections provide, but I wish that there were a graphics product [available to the common weather geek] that displayed the elements and forces of the atmospheric/fluid dynamic that cause the models to project what they do. Hearing from the NHC that there is “a weakness in the sub-tropical ridge that is digging south from the Great Lakes” is nice, and all… but, I’d love to see a graphical [animated?] representation of the elements that impact the movement projections.

  16. Wzrd1

    Ferdstripe @17, the information IS available, but it’s scattered all over the place on NOAA’s websites.
    Unfortunately, it’s not assembled in the way that you suggest, perhaps using NOAA’s contact us page, you can offer that suggest. If staffing permits, I’m certain they’d be happy to make those up for us.
    They ARE quite helpful, when asked a question.

  17. Ferdstripe

    Wzrd1 @ 18: Thanks for the tip. I’ll run the idea up the NOAA flagpole and see if anyone salutes!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar