NASA satellites investigate Typhoon Francisco heading for Japan

Oct 21, 2013 by Rob Gutro & Hal Pierce
The MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of Typhoon Francisco in the Pacific Ocean that clearly showed its eye on Oct. 19 at 0355 UTC. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Several of NASA's fleet of Earth-observing satellites have been gathering data on Typhoon Francisco as it moves toward Japan. NASA's Aqua, Terra and TRMM satellites captured infrared, visible and rainfall data on the super typhoon.

As Japan still recovers from Typhoon Wipha, the country is now expecting Francisco to make a brief landfall near Tokyo and parallel the country's east coast.

On Oct. 19 and 20 as Francisco strengthened NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites passed overhead and captured data on its structure and extent. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument that flies aboard both Terra and Aqua captured visible and infrared data of the storm. The MODIS image on Oct. 19 at 0355 UTC and Oct. 20 at 0130 UTC clearly showed Francisco maintained strength as an eye was visible over the two days.

NASA and the Japan Space Agency's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite called TRMM satellite flew above the western Pacific Ocean and caught a good view of Francisco when it was a on Oct. 20, 2013 at 0947 UTC/5:47 a.m. EDT. According to Hal Pierce of the TRMM team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., a precipitation analysis from TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) instruments found that rain was falling at the extreme rate of over 207 mm/~8.1 inches per hour in an area of violent storms southwest of Francisco's eye. Hal created images and animations of TRMM data of Super Typhoon Francisco. TRMM's Precipitation Radar (PR) discovered radar reflectivity values of over 53dBZ in heavy precipitation south of Francisco's center.

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This is a simulated 3-D flyby animation over Super Typhoon Francisco using TRMM satellite data on Oct. 20, 2013 at 5:47 a.m. EDT. Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce

On Oct. 21 at 1500 UTC/11 a.m. EDT, Francisco weakened back to typhoon status with maximum sustained winds near 90 knots/103.6 mph/166.7 kph. It was located near 21.3 north latitude and 135.3 east longitude, about 540 nautical miles/621.4 miles/1,000 km southeast of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. Francisco is forecast to continue moving north-northwestward at 7 knots/8.0 mph/12.9 kph and then turn to the northeast upon approach to Kadena Air Base.

The MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite captured this image of Super Typhoon Francisco in the Pacific Ocean that clearly showed its eye on Oct. 20 at 0130 UTC. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Francisco is generating very rough seas, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center or JTWC. Francisco is kicking up wave heights of 43 feet/13.1 meters in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean as it nears Kadena Air Base and Amami Oshima. Both of those islands are expected to feel gusty winds and rain on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 22, 23 and 24 (local time). Tropical-storm-force winds are most likely on those islands on Oct. 24 (local time) when Francisco is closest to them.

The JTWC predicts that Typhoon Francisco will weaken to a category one as it nears southern Japan on Oct. 24.

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