Stunning NASA infrared imagery of Hurricane Igor reveals a 170 degree temperature difference

September 14, 2010
This impressive infrared image of Hurricane Igor from NASA's AIRS instrument shows a clear and large eye, and very strong convection (purple) and high, powerful thunderstorm cloud tops around his center. The image was captured from the AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite on Sept. 14 at 14:47 UTC (10:47 a.m. EDT). Note the warm ocean temperatures (dark orange) well over the 80 degree F threshold needed to maintain intensity. Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen

NASA satellites provide infrared images to forecasters that show temperature, and today's imagery of powerful Hurricane Igor showed the storm's perfect form and the warm ocean waters around it that are keeping it fueled. NASA's infrared data also revealed a huge difference of 170 degrees between the cold cloud tops in Hurricane Igor and the warm sea surface temperatures powering it below.

When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Igor on Sept. 14 at 14:47 UTC (10:47 a.m. EDT) the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captured icy cold cloud top temperatures in the strong thunderstorms that surround Igor's well-defined eye. Those cloud top temperatures were as cold or colder than -90F, indicating they were near the top of the troposphere, and very strong.

The also showed the warmer, open 20 nautical-mile wide eye (because it was not cloud-filled). In addition, AIRS got a reading on the around Igor, which were all warmer than the 80F threshold needed to maintain a tropical cyclone, so Igor has a good energy source for the next day or two. So, the difference between Igor's cold cloud top temperatures and the warm ocean surface waters that are powering it are greater than 170 degrees Fahrenheit!

The AIRS instrument is managed out of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. and NASA's Ed Olsen creates those stunning images.

At 11 a.m. EDT today, Sept. 14, Igor was still a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale with near 135 mph. It was located far from land, about 710 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, near 18.3 North and 52.3 West. It was moving west-northwest near 7 mph, and is forecast by NOAA's National Hurricane Center to turn toward the northwest on Wednesday. Igor's minimum central pressure is 945 millibars.

Although Igor is over 700 miles from the Northern Leeward Islands, large ocean swells will reach them today creating dangerous conditions at beaches. Large swells will reach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands later today and tomorrow. These dangerous surf conditions also create rip currents along the beaches.

Explore further: NASA's Aqua satellite gets two views of category 4 Hurricane Bill

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LariAnn
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2010
I'm curious as to whether the large temperature difference between the cloud tops and the bottom of the storm system would result in a thermoelectric effect, causing the whole system to generate electricity like a thermocouple device. In a system this large, is it possible that such a phenomenon would explain some of the characteristics of a system that produces a lot of lightning?
marjon
1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2010
Is not the temperature difference between the ocean and the troposphere on that order all of the time?
altino
not rated yet Sep 14, 2010
Well. Make a sort of Fernel lens and point it to the cold center. That should stop that from happening again. That's what i would do, if i played as GOD. i'm sure someone will also remember to get a place for the meter. ahah. uhhhhhhh
Yvan_Dutil
not rated yet Sep 14, 2010
I'm curious as to whether the large temperature difference between the cloud tops and the bottom of the storm system would result in a thermoelectric effect, causing the whole system to generate electricity like a thermocouple device.


Thermocouple needs two different conducting materials. We do not have this condition in clouds.

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