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  • Infrared Images of Hurricane Adrian Reveal Its Stormy Life
Jun 2011
GREENBELT, Md., June 10, 2011 — Strong thunderstorms are the life's blood of tropical cyclones, and infrared and radar satellite data from NASA have confirmed that the eastern Pacific Ocean's first hurricane has plenty of them and that they're more than nine miles high. Adrian exploded in growth overnight from a tropical storm on June 8 to a major hurricane a day later.

This 3-D image of major hurricane Adrian was created from data on June 9 and shows thunderstorms dropping rain at a rate of more than 2 inches per hour in a nearly circular eye wall. (Images: NASA/Science Systems and Applications Inc./Hal Pierce)

Flying over Hurricane Adrian, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite took an IR snapshot of the storm's many strong thunderstorms and of the warm ocean water below.

The IR data suggests that Adrian has an eye, as the center of circulation on the IR image has a blue-colored U-shape. Because AIRS imagery is false-colored, purple represents the highest, coldest cloud tops and strongest thunderstorms, and blue represents lower, warmer cloud tops. The coldest cloud top temperatures are as cold as or colder than –63 °F (–52 °C). The blue area in the center of the larger area of purple in the imagery suggests that some overcast clouds are obscuring an eye. Other satellite data has confirmed the eye.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite flew over hurricane Adrian when it was a tropical depression on June 7 and recorded strong, towering thunderstorms (hot towers in red) that were as high as 9.3 miles around its center of circulation, indicating strengthening. Bands of rainfall were also starting to get organized.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured rainfall and cloud data from Hurricane Adrian when it passed directly above on June 9. The increasingly powerful hurricane had sustained winds estimated to be close to 92 mph at the time of this pass. TRMM's Precipitation Radar instrument revealed that beneath the clouds, there were intense thunderstorms dropping rain at a rate of more than 2 inches an hour in a nearly circular eye wall.

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