NASA astronaut shares pictures of Hurricane Dorian from space


As Hurricane Dorian continues to pound the Bahamas and inch its way toward the East Coast of the United States, eyes in the sky continue to capture images of the deadly storm’s fury. After days of obliterating intensity records, Dorian weakened to a Category 2 storm on September 3rd, but it remains a dangerous force of nature.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that the storm is now “finally moving northwestward and growing in size” and still forecasts dangerous winds and a life-threatening storm surge in the Bahamas.

Experts tracking Dorian have used every tool in their playbook to forecast the storm’s path — including gathering images from satellites, hurricane-hunting planes, and even the International Space Station. Take a look.

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite has been tracking Dorian day and night. This gif shows Dorian swirling over the Bahamas on the morning of September 3rd. The satellite imaged the storm in infrared at night, and then in true color once the Sun rose. At this point, Hurricane Dorian was classified as a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.

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On September 2nd, the International Space Station flew over Dorian, and astronaut Nick Hague took this picture of Dorian’s eye. The eye of a hurricane is the center of the storm system, where there is a brief calm. In contrast, the towering thunderheads around the eye, also known as the eye wall, typically mark the most violent, intense parts of the storm, with fierce winds and rains.


A more zoomed-out image taken by astronaut Christina Koch on the ISS shows the storm’s extensive reach on September 2nd.

Closer to Earth, NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft continues to fly through Dorian, gathering data for meteorologists to use in their attempts to forecast the hurricane’s path and intensity. The video above was taken on one of those flights as the pilots flew through the eye of the storm.

To get a better idea of Dorian’s structure, meteorologists rely on images like this one from the Suomi NPP satellite, operated by both NOAA and NASA. In this infrared image, Dorian is positioned directly over Grand Bahama, which has taken the brunt of the storm’s rains and winds.

Other satellite operators, like Finnish company Iceye, have used their tech to look underneath the roiled clouds at what’s happening on the ground. By using synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, satellites and aircraft can bounce microwaves off the ground, and analyze the echos they get back. This lets people gather information about hazards like flooding from storm surge — water from the ocean pushed onto land by the storm — even before the clouds clear. NOAA estimates that the storm surge in the Bahamas is anticipated to be 10-15 feet above normal.

Storm surge isn’t the only source of flooding in this storm. Dorian has been unleashing torrents of rain, especially over the Bahamas. A NASA algorithm, using data from satellites, has estimated the rainfall accumulations along the storm’s path. Some areas of the Bahamas have already been hit with more than two feet (0.6 meters) of rain. NOAA anticipates that the total will rise to 2.5 feet in some places by Friday.

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