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Earth from Orbit: Hurricane Season Heats Up

August 19, 2021
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As we approach the peak of Atlantic hurricane season, activity in the tropics has ramped up. NOAA satellites are monitoring storms in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 

Tropical Storm Fred formed in the Atlantic on Aug. 11, 2021 and soon made landfall over the island of Hispaniola. Fred weakened to a tropical depression before intensifying back to tropical storm strength on Aug. 15. Fred again made landfall on the eastern Florida Panhandle on Aug. 16 with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph. The storm brought heavy rain and power outages to Florida and Georgia. Fred was the fourth named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this year, following Claudette, Danny and Elsa.

Tropical Storm Grace formed in the Caribbean Sea on Aug. 14. Grace produced heavy rains and flooding in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica before moving toward Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Grace strengthened into the second hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season on Aug. 18, as it approached Grand Cayman. Grace made landfall along the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, just south of Tulum, Mexico, on Aug. 19. 

Tropical Storm Henri developed southeast of Bermuda on Aug. 16. Henri is forecast to become a hurricane over the western Atlantic Ocean by Aug. 20 and travel up the northeast coast of the U.S., bringing possible storm surge, wind, and rain to portions of the northeastern U.S. and Atlantic Canada.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Linda churns in the eastern Pacific Ocean. At peak intensity, Linda was a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Linda is the second major hurricane in the eastern Pacific this season. Linda has the characteristics of an annular hurricane—an intense hurricane with large, symmetrical eyes, and few or no rain bands.

NOAA satellites provide critical data for hurricane forecasting as well as advanced technology to track the storms—their location, movement, and intensity. Satellites measure sea surface temperature and atmospheric temperature and moisture, all of which are critical to forecasting storms several days in advance. 

Once a storm forms, NOAA satellites provide a detailed look at the storm properties of a hurricane, including cloud top cooling, central pressure, and convective structures as well as specific features of a hurricane’s eye, wind estimates, and lightning activity. This information is critical to estimating a storm’s intensity. 

Atmospheric and oceanic conditions in the Atlantic remain conducive for an above-average hurricane season, according to the annual mid-season update issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center on Aug. 4. The latest outlook predicts the number of expected named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater)  in the Atlantic to be 15-21, including 7-10 hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), of which 3-5 could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5 with winds 111 mph or greater).

As hurricane season heats up, NOAA satellites are staying vigilant. Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center for the latest information on tropical storm and hurricane activity.

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