NASA and NOAA’s fleet of orbiting spacecraft have been tracking the super hurricane Sandy from space. Images have been beamed back to Earth and what they have shown is a storm that has followed the worst predictions of meteorologists on its way into the history books.
NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite
The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership or “Suomi NPP”, launched in, Oct. 2011 has been using its Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) to produce imagery of this storm as it traveled up the East Coast. The spacecraft caught this image a year to the day after its launch. Suomi NPP’s primary mission is to provide long-term documentation of environmental data.
Scientists snapped this image using a special “day-night band,” this picks up light in a variety of wavelengths from green to near-infrared. The Suomi NPP spacecraft picked up lights emanating from Florida and Georgia peeking up through the thick clouds.
NASA’s Aqua Satellite
To determine the full fury of this storm, NASA has tasked its Aqua Spacecraft to employ its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. Aqua uses this instrument to determine the height of clouds. It works like this; the higher the clouds, the colder the temperatures – the more powerful the hurricane (as of this writing Sandy is no longer a hurricane).
On Monday, Oct. 29 Aqua used the AIRS instrument to capture imagery from Sandy as she passed by below. Aqua tracked storms as they spun off and raged from the Carolinas – to Canada. The regions of the image above that are in purple represent the cooler temps – -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius). These clouds stretch high into the troposphere.
NOAA’s GOES-13 Satellite
NASA’s sister agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has also been using one of its spacecraft to monitor the storm. The spacecraft in question is NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite which snapped this image of Hurricane Sandy battering the U.S. East coast on Monday, Oct. 29 at 9:10 a.m. EDT. Deeming the storm a “monster” is in no way overstating Sandy’s nature. With a diameter some 1,000 miles across and packing tropical storm force winds, the hurricane has merged with other atmospheric conditions to form a storm that some experts say the likes of which has never been experienced in living memory.
The National Weather Service has issued a number of watches and warnings to keep the public informed as Sandy’s power is felt up and down the Eastern Seaboard. GOES-13 was launched in May of 2006 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-37B.
International Space Station
The Expedition 33 crew, on board the International Space Station, have transmitted back both still and video of Sandy’s approach to the United States’ East Coast. Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft successfully completed the first private resupply mission to the orbiting laboratory by splashing down in the Pacific Ocean yesterday.
Whereas the many spacecraft that NASA and NOAA have on orbit provide invaluable data that allows for more accurate predictions, the Expedition 33 crew is providing those of us on the ground with a unique perspective. The six individuals onboard the ISS have the rare vantage point of watching Sandy make history – from above the clouds.