Artist concept of NASA's CloudSat spacecraft, the satellite which was able to map Hurricane Dorian's clouds. (NASA/JPL)
LOS ANGELES - NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been keeping tabs on Dorian using several different instruments and spacecraft that have been mapping the storm from within, one of which was able to create a 3-D animation of the hurricane’s clouds.
On Aug. 27, NASA’s CloudSat satellite passed over Dorian near Puerto Rico while it was still a tropical storm. The satellite was able to determine how tall Dorian’s clouds are, where the different cloud layers are and where the heavier bands of rain are found within the storm system.
CloudSat uses radar technology that basically “slices” through clouds, providing a wealth of information about what is happening inside the storm.
The animation above shows Dorian when it had maximum sustained winds of 52 mph. Some of its cloud tops extended a whopping 9 miles into the atmosphere.
For insight into the size of water and ice droplets within the storm, pay attention to the colors — deep red and pink signify large droplets with areas of moderate and heavy rainfall.
A second satellite called TEMPEST-D — which is the size of a cereal box — captured additional imagery of Hurricane Dorian off the coast of Puerto Rico early Wednesday morning. The tiny weather-observing satellite zoomed over Dorian at a vantage point 250 miles above, using a miniaturized radio-wave-based instrument to look through the clouds and track the movement of the storm’s moisture.
The green area shows the moisture being pulled into Dorian’s center in a spiral movement, while the yellow, orange, black and pink areas indicate increasingly intense areas of rainfall.
NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) located aboard the Aqua satellite mapped the temperature, humidity and cloud amounts and heights by sensing emitted infrared and microwave radiation from earth.
AIRS captured the imagery below from Hurricane Dorian on Thursday afternoon. The purple areas indicate regions where very cold clouds are being carried high into the atmosphere by deep thunderstorms, while the blue and green areas indicate regions of Dorian that are warmer with shallower rain clouds. Orange and red areas show the mostly clear and cloudless areas around Dorian.
NASA has also been keeping an eye on Dorian from the International Space Station. For a humbling view of this massive natural event, take a look at the footage captured by the ISS on Thursday.