Satellites see tropical storms Laura and Marco from space

Satellites have spotted tropical storms Marco and Laura as they simultaneously marched toward the Gulf of Mexico. 

After being downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm on Sunday (Aug. 23), Marco made landfall along the coast of Louisiana late on Monday (Aug. 24), bringing rainfall, gusty winds and storm surge just before weakening into a post-tropical cyclone, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). 

Tropical Storm Laura intensified into a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday morning (Aug. 25) and is expected to strengthen into a major Category 3 storm by the time it makes landfall along the Louisiana and Texas coasts early Thursday (Aug. 26). 

The International Space Station captured views of what was then Tropical Storm Laura on Sunday (Aug. 23), prior to the storm making landfall in Cuba. A video captures an aerial view of Tropical Storm Laura, taken approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the storm by external cameras on the orbiting lab. 

NASA’s Terra satellite also captured infrared views of Tropical Storm Marco using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument, which recorded temperature information from Marco’s cloud tops on Tuesday at 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT). 

The satellite views showed remnant thunderstorms northeast of the center of the storm, where temperatures were as cold as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 45.5 degrees Celsius). These cloud-top temperatures indicate strong thunderstorms that reach high into the atmosphere and have the potential to generate heavy rainfall, according to a statement from NASA

“Marco is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches (7.62 to 12.7 centimeters) with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches [25 cm] across portions of the northeast and north-central Gulf coast through Tuesday,” the National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory. “This rainfall may result in areas of flash, urban and small stream flooding in the area.”

The MODIS instrument also captured Tropical Storm Laura, measuring the storm’s cloud-top temperatures on Aug. 23 at 11:45 p.m. EDT (Aug. 24 at 0345 GMT). The instrument revealed that the most powerful thunderstorms were located near Laura’s center, where temperatures were as cold as minus 80 degrees F (minus 62.2 C). At that time, the storm was just north of Jamaica, which could experience up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) of rainfall, according to a statement from NASA.

Other satellite instruments, including the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-20 satellite and the NOAA’s GOES-East satellite, are also tracking the storms as they continue through the Gulf of Mexico. 


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