The State of Washington and the Province of BC are in a state of emergency following days of severe wind, rain, and flooding. The situation began when an “atmospheric river” (a plume of moisture) extended over the Pacific Northwest, triggering severe rainfall that caused already-rising rivers to overflow. This led to blocked roads, mudslides, fallen bridges, and thousands of animals drowning in farmland areas.
This extensive damage was photographed from space by Earth observation satellites, one of which was the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel mission and the International Space Station (ISS). These images captured the extent of the floods in the Nooksack and Fraser River valleys this week, which both spilled over their banks this week, leading to washed-out roads and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.
TITUSVILLE/CAPE CANAVERAL, FL– NASA and Air Force officials have ordered the closure of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as deadly Cat 4 Hurricane Irma relentlessly targets a direct hit on Florida and forces millions of residents and tourists to evacuate catastrophic consequences coming tonight, Saturday, Sept. 9 and throughout the weekend.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also announced its closure.
The Florida Space Coast base and Visitor Complex closings were ordered just hours after SpaceX successfully launched the secretive X-37B military spaceplane to orbit for the U.S. Air Force on a Falcon 9 rocket from historic pad 39A on the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, Sept. 7.
“NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is closing Friday, Sept. 8 through at least Monday, Sept. 11, due to the approach of Hurricane Irma, KSC officials said.
“Irma could potentially bring heavy rain and strong winds to the spaceport. Essential personnel will make final preparations to secure center facilities and infrastructure.”
“I have declared Hurricane Condition II (HURCON II) as of 9:00 p.m. today [9/9],” declared Brig Gen. Wayne R. Monteith, Commander, 45th Space Wing.
“As we enter HURCON II, we continue to monitor Hurricane Irma’s progress. HURCON II indicates surface winds in excess of 58 mph could arrive in the area of the base within 24 hours.”
“This is a deadly major storm,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott at an update briefing today. “Our state has never seen anything like it.”
“We are under a state of emergency!”
18 million people are currently under Hurricane warnings throughout Florida and the dire warnings from the Governor have been nothing short of catastrophic.
Here’s the latest Hurricane Irma storm track from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) updated to Saturday evening, Sept 9.
Only a ride out team of roughly 130 or so KSC personnel based at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) inside the Launch Control Center will remain on site to monitor spaceport facilities over the weekend and beyond.
“We’re closed until further notice except for Ride-Out Team. Stay safe!” said KSC officials.
“Ride-Out Team to remain in place until #Irma passes.”
Both KSC and the Cape’s Air Force Base will remain closed until Irma passes and until further notice and the facilities are deemed safe.
“After the storm has left the area, Kennedy’s Damage Assessment and Recovery Team will evaluate all center facilities and infrastructure for damage. The spaceport will reopen after officials determine it is safe for employees to return.”
State officials also ordered the mandatory evacuation of the Cape’s surrounding barrier islands including Merritt Island which is home to the space center and Cocoa Beach, as of Friday at 3 p.m. EDT.
This is the second year in a row that a deadly looming hurricane has forced the closure of KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
When Hurricane Matthew struck last October 2016 it left over $100 million in damages to NASA and AF installations and ironically caused the postponed of the advanced GOES-16 (GOES-R) weather satellite now tracking Irma with unprecedented clarity and timing.
Strong wind gusts and heavy downpours have already drenched Titusville and other local Space Coast cities periodically today, Sat., Sept 9.
NASA’s iconic VAB was barely visible from my perch along Titusville river front, ghostlike in appearance when it peeked only rarely through the clouds.
As I write this late Saturday, Sept. 9, Irma is just hours and less than 100 miles away from striking the Florida Keys with a predicted impact of an unsurvivable storm surge.
The eye is currently off the north coast of Cuba and moving in a west northwesterly WNW direction at 7 MPH.
Monster storm Irma is the size of Texas. The outer bands are already lashing the Florida Keys.
Landfall is currently projected to be on the west coast of Florida, perhaps around the Tampa area and causing catastrophic storm surges, flooding and destruction of property and homes.
“Millions of Floridians will see major impacts with DEADLY DEADLY DEADLY storm surge and life threatening winds,” elaborated Gov. Scott.
“There is a serious threat of significant storm surge flooding along the entire west coast of Florida.
This has increased to 15 feet of impact above ground level.”
“Think about that. 15 feet is devastating and will cover your house. A typical first story is 7 to 10 feet. The storm surge will rush in and could kill you.”
“This is a life threatening situation,” warned Scott. “Central Florida is under a hurricane warning and will see dangerous and life threatening wind and torrential rainfall of more than a foot. Rainfall has already started and wind will begin tonight.”
“We could also see tornadoes.”
90+ MPH wind gusts are expected virtually statewide.
Widespread power outages are expected. Over 190,000 power outages have already been reported as of Saturday evening.
Millions more are expected to lose power – including half of all residents says Florida Power and Light (FPL) !
Hundreds of power crews are already prepositioned in place to get the juice flowing as soon as possible after Irma marches northward.
As a precaution earlier this week Scott already ordered all schools and government offices closed statewide until further notice.
Florida hurricane shelters are filling up in some areas and overflowing in others. 385 designated shelters are open already and more are coming. Over 375,000 people have already taken shelter.
Finding open gas stations is increasingly problematical because many are now closing as the storms impact is imminent. Tanker trucks had been replenishing empty storage tanks as best as possible throughout the state over the past few days.
“We are working to keep gas stations open,” said Scott.
8 to 18 inches of rain are expected across the state.
Storm surge warnings are in effect especially for the west coast notably in the Tampa and Sarasota areas where it could reach 5 – 10 feet in Tampa Bay and even higher to 10 to 15 feet along the southwest Florida coast is possible.
“Millions of Floridians will see life threatening winds starting tonight,” Scott warned.
“This is a life-threatening situation.”
“Over 6.5 million have been ordered to evacuate. Get out now if you have been ordered to do so.”
That’s 6.5 million people ordered to evacuate out of the total state population of 20 million – unfathomable.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite X-37B OTV-5 and NASA mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
“It will be like high-definition from the heavens,” says NOAA.
“Today’s release of the first images from #GOES16 signals the start of a new age in satellite weather observation!!!”
Thus the newly obtained and published imagery has been anxiously awaited by scientists, meteorologists and ordinary weather enthusiasts.
“This is such an exciting day for NOAA! One of our GOES-16 scientists compared this to seeing a newborn baby’s first pictures — it’s that exciting for us,” said Stephen Volz Ph.D. director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, in a statement.
“These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth. The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts.”
An especially eye-popping image taken by GOES -16 from its equatorial vantage point situated in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) above Earth and published today, shows both the Earth and the Moon together – as the lead image here.
The Earth/Moon combo shot is not only fantastically pleasing to the eye, but also serves a significant scientific purpose.
“Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration,” say NOAA officials.
“GOES-16 will boost the nation’s weather observation network and NOAA’s prediction capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings.”
GOES-16 is the most advanced and powerful weather observatory ever built and will bring about a ‘quantum leap’ in weather forecasting.
“Seeing these first images from GOES-16 is a foundational moment for the team of scientists and engineers who worked to bring the satellite to launch and are now poised to explore new weather forecasting possibilities with this data and imagery,” said Volz.
“The incredibly sharp images are everything we hoped for based on our tests before launch. We look forward to exploiting these new images, along with our partners in the meteorology community, to make the most of this fantastic new satellite.”
It’s dramatic new imagery will show the weather in real time enabling critical life and property forecasting, help pinpoint evacuation zones and also save people’s lives in impacted areas of severe weather including hurricanes and tornadoes.
And the huge satellite can’t come online soon enough, as demonstrated by the severe winter weather and tornadoes that just wreaked havoc and death in various regions of the US.
Another breathtaking image product (seen below) produced by the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, built by Harris Corporation, shows a full-disc view of the Western Hemisphere in high detail — at four times the image resolution of existing GOES spacecraft.
The 11,000 pound satellite was built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and is the first of a quartet of four identical satellites – comprising GOES-R, S, T, and U – at an overall cost of about $11 Billion. This will keep the GOES satellite system operational through 2036.
This next generation of GOES satellites will replace the currently operating GOES East and GOES West satellites.
NOAA will soon decide whether GOES-16 will replace either the East or West satellites. A decision from NOAA is expected in May. GOES-16 will be operational by November 2017 as either the GOES-East or GOES-West satellite. Of course everyone wants it first.
The next satellite is nearing assembly completion and will undergo about a year of rigorous environmental and acoustic testing before launch. It will go to whichever slot was not selected this year.
The six instrument science suite includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) built by Harris Corporation, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) built by Lockheed Martin, Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS), Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), and the Magnetometer (MAG).
ABI is the primary instrument and will collect 3 times more spectral data with 4 times greater resolution and scans 5 times faster than ever before – via the primary Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument – compared to the current GOES satellites.
“The higher resolution will allow forecasters to pinpoint the location of severe weather with greater accuracy. GOES-16 can provide a full image of Earth every 15 minutes and one of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and scans the Earth at five times the speed of NOAA’s current GOES imagers.”
Those who live along the “wet coast” – which is what people living in Puget Sound or the lower mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island affectionately call their home – might think that they live in the wettest place on Earth. Then again, people living in the Amazon rain forest might think that there lush and beautiful home is the dampest place in the world.
But in truth, all these places come up dry (pun intended!) compared to the one place that has held the title for wettest point on Earth many times in its history. And that place is none other than Mawsynram, India, which experiences an annual average rainfall of 12 meters. And yet, this curious region in northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent is an exercise in extremes, either drowning in rainwater, or starving for it.
When it comes to describing locations on planet Earth in terms of “wet”, some clarifications are needed. What we are talking about is average annual precipitation – i.e. rainfall, snow, drizzle, fog, etc. – measured in mm (or inches). This is necessary because otherwise, the “wettest” place on Earth would be the Mariana Trench, which has over 10,000 meters (36,000 feet) of water on top of it.
Also, based on rainfall. the wettest place on Earth has been known to change from time to time. In recent years, that title has gone to the town of Mawsynram, a village located in the East Khasi Hills district of northeastern, India. With an average annual rainfall of 11,872 millimetres (467.4 in), it is arguably the wettest place on Earth.
However, it is often in competition with the neighboring town of Cherrapunjee, which is located just 15 km (9.3 mi) to the west of Mawsynram in the East Khasi Hills district in northeastern India. The city’s yearly rainfall average stands at 11,777 millimetres (463.7 in), so it too has held the title.
The reason for these town experiencing so much precipitation has to do with the local climate. Situated within a subtropical highland climate zone, it experiences a lengthy and powerful monsoon season. In once instance, the monsoon season lasted for 2 years straight with no reported break in the rain!
Surprisingly, the high rainfall is a result of the region’s elevation and not the monsoon season alone. Huge amounts of warm air condense and fall as rain when they encounter the Khasi Hills. The topography of the region forces the very moist clouds up and down, forcing them to empty their accumulated water over the region.
Beyond northeastern India, there are several other locations on the planet that experience over 10 meters (32.8 feet) of annual precipitation. For instance, the town of Tutunendo, Colombia, experiences an average of 11,770 mm (463.38 in) of annual rainfall. The area actually experiences two rainy seasons a year, so precipitation is pretty much the norm.
Next up, there is Mount Waialeale, a shield volcano located on the island of Kaua’i on the Hawaiian Islands. As the the second highest point on the island, its name literally means “rippling water” (or “overflowing water”), and for good reason! This mountain has had an average of 11,500 mm (452 in) of rainfall since 1912.
However, in 1982, its summit experienced 17,300 mm (683 in), making it the wettest place on Earth in that year. And between 1978-2007, Big Bog – a spot in Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui, Hawaii – experienced an average of 10,300 mm (404 in) of rainfall, putting it in the top ten.
As already noted, the “wettest place on Earth” changes over time. This should come as no surprise, considering that weather patterns have been known to shift, not only in the course of an average year, but also over the course of centuries and millennia.
Nevertheless, those places that experience over 10 meters of precipitation are generally found within the tropical regions of the world, places known for experiencing intense and prolonged rainy seasons, and where lush tropical rainforests have existed for thousands of years. Here is a recent list of the top 10 locations.
But with anthropogenic climate change becoming a growing factor in planetary weather systems, this too could be subject to change. In the coming decades, and centuries, who’s to say where the most precipitation will fall on planet Earth?
Next month’s launch of GOES-R – a new and advanced transformational weather satellite that will vastly enhance the quality, speed and accuracy of weather forecasting – will likely be delayed a few days due to lingering storm related effects of deadly Hurricane Matthew on launch preparations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Universe Today confirmed with launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA).
Liftoff of the NASA/NOAA GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series) weather satellite atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket had been scheduled for Nov. 4 at 5:40 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
GOES-R is the first in a new series of American’s most powerful and most advanced next generation weather observation satellites.
It’s ironic that awful weather is impacting the launch of this critical weather satellite.
It’s not known how long any postponement would be – perhaps only a few days since preliminary indications are that the base suffered only minor damage and there are no reports of major damage.
“Our teams are still doing a damage assessment. So we don’t have a status about all of our infrastructure yet,” Chassagne told me.
“A preliminary assessment shows that we have some minor damage to a few of our facilities. We had no rockets on the pads. So there is no damage to hardware.”
Damage assessment teams are evaluating the launch pad and launch facilities in detail right now.
“Since we still have emergency response teams in assessing, we don’t know how long the delay will be until we get those assessments.”
The looming threat of a direct hit on Cape Canaveral and KSC from the Category 4 storm Hurricane Matthew on Friday, Oct. 7, forced the closure of both facilities before the storm hit. They remained closed this weekend except to emergency personal.
“Got in today to assess. Light to moderate damage to our facilities. No damage to any flight assets,” tweeted ULA CEO Tory Bruno.
The base closures therefore also forced a halt to launch preparations at the Cape and pad 41.
The storm grazed by the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and the major population centers along the Florida Space Coast with wind gusts up to 107 mph – rather than making a direct impact as feared.
“Hurricane Matthew passed Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center …. with sustained winds of 90 mph with gusts to 107 mph,” on Friday, NASA officials reported.
The storm passed “the space center about 26 miles off the tip of Cape Canaveral.”
The launch ULA facilities are now being thoroughly inspected before any launch preparation can proceed.
The satellite is in the final stages of preparation at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility in Titusville, FL as I recently observed during an up close visit in the High Bay cleanroom.
Check out this amazing rooftop video showing the high winds pummeling Titusville during Hurricane Matthew just a few miles away from Astrotech and the GOES-R satellite – from my space colleague Jeff Seibert.
Video caption: Before we bailed out on Thursday afternoon, I clamped one of my launch pad remote cameras to the power service post on our roof. Wind is blocked a lot by trees but none fell on the house. The highest recorded wind speed was 51mph at 7:30AM on Oct. 7, 2016. The minimum barometric pressure was 28.79″ from 8:20 – 9 AM. We got 5.9″ of rain. The ridge line faces due east. We never lost power. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for GOES-R.
Whenever it does launch, GOES-R will blast off on a ULA Atlas V in the very powerful 541 configuration, augmented by four solid rocket booster on the first stage.
It will be launched to a Geostationary orbit some 22,300 miles above Earth.
But ULA has not yet begun assembling the Atlas V booster inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at SLC-41 due to the storm.
Because of Hurricane Matthew, the first stage arrival had to be postponed. The second stage is already in port at the Delta operations center and being integrated.
“The first stage booster is not yet at the Cape,” Chassagne confirmed.
However, conditions at the Cape have improved sufficiently for the US Air Force to clear its shipment into port, as of this evening.
“We just cleared CCAFS to be able to accept a booster for the GOES-R launch–how appropriate that GOES is a weather satellite!” wrote Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, in a Facebook update late today, Oct. 9.
“We are returning to full mission capability and our status as the World’s Premier Gateway to Space.”
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
“Hurricane #Patricia approaches #Mexico. It’s massive. Be careful” in this image taken by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the ISS on Oct. 23, 2015. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
More images and videos below[/caption]
Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm in recorded history with winds exceeding 190 mph (305 km/h) is right now menacing millions in Mexico after suddenly intensifying with little warning over the past day, threatening widespread catastrophic destruction as it barrels towards frightened residents along the nations Pacific coast and makes landfall this evening, Friday, Oct. 23.
Other NASA and NOAA weather satellites are actively monitoring and measuring the strongest storm on the planet right now.
“Hurricane #Patricia approaches #Mexico. It’s massive. Be careful,” Kelly wrote on his twitter account with a pair of images taken from the ISS.
Patricia unexpectedly intensified quite rapidly to a Category 5 storm from a tropical storm in the space of just 24 hours from yesterday to today with the significant potential for loss of life and likely widespread catastrophic damage.
This morning Patricia had sustained winds of 190 mph (305 km/h) , on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with gusts up to 235 mph. That’s comparable to an EF-4 tornado, but its much wider.
Weather forecasters say that unusually warm waters, possibly from the current El Niño weather pattern may be causing the rapid intensification of the storm to unprecedented power never before seen.
“Hurricane #Patricia looks menacing from @space_station. Stay safe below,” tweeted Kelly, who just broke the American record for most time spent in space.
Patricia is making landfall near the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, the town of Cuixmala and the city of Manzanillo along Mexico’s Pacific coast, as it slightly weakens to 165 mph (265 km/h) with destructive force.
Here is the latest Hurricane Patricia animation from NOAA:
Patricia is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall and many millions live in its path that is expected to track eastwards across inland areas of Mexico and then move up into the United States at Texas with flooding rains.
The Mexican government has warned millions to take shelter to evacuate. Over 15000 tourists have been evacuated from Puerto Vallarta to other regions. But the effort was hampered since the airport has been closed.
Catastrophic destruction to homes, businesses and infrastructure is feared.
Some 10 to 20 inches of rain is expected along the coast, causing mudslides across Mexico.
Waves heights exceeding 30 feet are also expected.
Heavy rains and flash flooding will continue into the US with the heaviest downpours expected in Texas and Louisiana.
Here’s the 7 PM CDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center:
“EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE PATRICIA MOVING FARTHER INLAND OVER SOUTHWESTERN MEXICO”
“The center of Hurricane Patricia was located near latitude 19.5 North, longitude 104.9 West. Patricia ismoving toward the north-northeast near 15 mph (24 km/h) and this motion is expected to continue with some increase in forward speed tonight and Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Patricia should continue to move inland over southwestern Mexico.
Patricia is expected to move quickly north-northeastward across western and northern Mexico through Saturday.
Satellite images indicate that Patricia has continued to weaken, and maximum sustained winds are estimated to be near 160 mph (260 km/h) with higher gusts. Patricia is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Patricia is forecast to rapidly weaken over the mountains of Mexico and dissipate on Saturday.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).
The estimated minimum central pressure is 924 mb (27.29 inches).”
Here’s a video of Hurricane Patricia from the ISS taken today, Oct 23, 2015.
Video caption: Outside the International Space Station, cameras captured dramatic views of Hurricane Patricia at 12:15 p.m. EDT on October 23, 2015 as the mammoth system moved north at about 10 mph, heading for a potentially catastrophic landfall along the southwest coast of Mexico sometime during the day, according to the National Hurricane Center. Packing winds of 200 miles per hour, Patricia is the strongest in recorded history in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. The National Hurricane Center says that once Patricia crosses the Mexican coast it should weaken quickly and dissipate Oct. 24 due to upper level winds and mountainous terrain, but likely will introduce copious amounts of rainfall to the Texas coast through the weekend. Credit: NASA
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Kelly’s spectacular storm photo shows the eye of Hurricane Joaquin over the Caribbean and off the US eastern seaboard with the limb of the Earth and our atmosphere in beautiful detail.
Huge thunderstorms can been off to the north of the immense category 4 storm.
And as of today, Saturday, Oct. 3, Hurricane Joaquin has further strengthened and is now packing maximum sustained winds of 150 MPH or 240 KM/H, according to the latest advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) as of 5 p.m. EDT.
Kelly posted the Oct. 2 photo of Joaquin with this caption on his twitter account:
“Early morning shot of Hurricane #Joaquin from @space_station before reaching #Bahamas. Hope all is safe. #YearInSpace.”
Two of the stations solar panels are seen in the photo as well as portions of the US east coast including Florida.
The latest NHC forecast shows Joaquin veering away from the US East Coast. But it’s still creating hurricane force winds and high waves that is threatening Bermuda.
“SEVERE HURRICANE JOAQUIN THREATENING BERMUDA,” said the NHC today.
It is moving northeast at 45 degrees at 17 MPH or 28 KM/H.
Kelly snapped another telling view of Joaquin on Thursday, Oct. 1 showing the Bahamas and Miami in the field of view.
Kelly tweeted; “#HurricaneJoaquin churns over the #Bahamas with #Miami in the field of view from @Space_Station.”
Scott Kelly is a member of the first ever 1 year ISS mission crew comprising Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.
Video caption: This animation of images captured from September 29 to October 1, 2015 from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Joaquin become a major hurricane in the Bahamas. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
NEW JERSEY – A wide swath of the US East Coast is bracing for impact in the coming days as ‘Hurricane Joaquin’ strengthened to a major and dangerous Category 4 storm, today, Thursday, Oct. 1, as NASA and NOAA satellites keep constant watch as it barrels potentially towards tens of millions of coastal residents.
Joaquin is already packing winds exceeding 130 mph with even higher wind gusts as the storm continues to strengthen at this hour and the pressure is decreasing. See the latest Hurricane Joaquin animation and imagery from NASA and NOAA, above and below.
A ULA Atlas V is slated to lift off Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:08 a.m. EDT with the Morelos-3 communications satellite for Mexico, before the hurricane gets closer to Florida.
The National Hurricane Center declared Joaquin had intensified into a massive Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, as of 2 PM EDT today, Oct. 1.
The governors of three states – New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina – have already declared ‘States of Emergency’ in anticipation of potentially destructive winds, potentially life threatening drenching rains and floods, downed power lines and ocean rip currents with high waves in local areas.
Multiple NASA and NOAA satellites are intensively and continuously observing Joaquin, and are providing absolutely critical data to forecasters and government officials with the most current and best information available.
NASA’s GPM, Terra and NPP-Suomi satellites and NOAA’s GOES-East satellite are tracking Joaquin and have seen powerful thunderstorms today which indicates continued strengthening.
At this time we still don’t whether the US eastern seaboard will suffer a major hit but officials are taking no chances after suffering through Superstorm Sandy which caused many deaths, widespread power outages and billions and billions of dollars of damage – from which we are still recovering.
Joaquin is currently over The Bahamas in the Caribbean and is expected to make a sharp right turn on Friday Oct 2 and head northwards to the east coast and the Atlantic Ocean. It could start impacting the Carolinas and regions further north as soon as Sunday, Oct. 4, based on current forecasts, and drop double digits inches of torrential rainfall.
Its pounding the Bahamas right now and is creating a disaster with hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall, say weather forecasters, as it remains over the island for some 24 hours or more and may drop over 10 inches of rain.
But there is a very wide cone of uncertainly of where it could hit as the possible storm track extends from the Carolinas to Maine. It may or may not directly impact the eastern US. The storm may shift to the right and spare the east coast. But no one knows at this time.
Some areas on the US East coast stretching from Virginia to Maine have already suffered from torrential rains and severe flooding from an unrelated storm the past few days and also right now today, Thursday.
So the grounds are already saturated in parts of the Carolina’s, Virginia, Maine and elsewhere.
Coastal flood warnings and watches are already in effect in many areas along the eastern seaboard where local areas could be drenched by some 12 to 18 inches of additional rain which could fall even before the hurricane hits.
Significant beach erosion has already occurred in the Carolinas over the past few days and more is expected up and down the entire coast up to Maine.
And 10 foot high defense berms of sand are being constructed at this moment along miles and miles of the Jersey Shore – areas that suffered devastating damage from Superstorm Sandy.
There is a potential risk of deadly flooding, flash flooding and damage to houses, buildings, businesses, roadways and infrastructure.
“At 2 p.m. EDT (1800 UTC), the center of Hurricane Joaquin was located near latitude 23.0 North, longitude 74.2 West. Joaquin was moving generally southwestward at about 6 mph (9 kph), and the National Hurricane Center forecast a turn toward the northwest and north on Friday, Oct. 2. On the forecast track, the center of Joaquin will move near or over portions of the central Bahamas today and tonight and pass near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Friday, Oct. 2,” according to NASAs Rob Gutro.
The weather forecast for Friday’s launch from Cape Canaveral , Florida is currently 70 percent GO for liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:08 a.m. EDT. The Atlas V will launch with the Morelos-3 mission for Mexico’s Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (Ministry of Communications and Transportation).
Morelos-3 will be part of the Mexsat constellation of satellites that delivers advanced telecommunications throughout Mexico.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MARYLAND – Weather researchers and forecasters worldwide are gushing with excitement in the final days leading to blastoff of the powerful, new Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory – built by NASA in a joint effort with Japan.
GPM is a next-generation satellite that will provide global, near real time observations of rain and snow from space and thereby open a new revolutionary era in global weather observing and climate science. Therefore it will have a direct impact on society and people’s daily lives worldwide.
The team is counting down to liftoff in less than 5 days, on Feb. 27 at 1:07 PM EST from the Tanegashima Space Center, on Tanegashima Island off southern Japan, atop the highly reliable Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket.
The GPM launch to low Earth orbit was delayed by both natural and manmade disasters – namely the 2011 Fukushima earthquake in Japan as well as the ridiculous US government shutdown in Oct. 2013. That’s the same foolish shutdown that also delayed NASA’s new MAVEN Mars orbiter and numerous other US space & science projects.
The $933 Million mission is a joint venture between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Japan’s space agency.
The mission will significantly advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles and improve forecasting of extreme weather events.
It is equipped with an advanced, higher resolution dual -frequency precipitation (DPR) radar instrument (Ku and Ka band) built by JAXA in Japan and the GPM microwave imager (GMI) built by Ball Aerospace in the US.
“The GPM satellite was built in house at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland,” Art Azarbarzin, GPM project manager, told Universe Today during my exclusive up-close clean room inspection tour of the huge satellite as final processing was underway.
Shortly after my tour of GPM, the 3850 kilogram satellite was carefully packed up for shipment to the Japanese launch site.
“GPM will join a worldwide constellation of current and planned satellites,” Azarbarzin told me during an interview in the Goddard cleanroom with GPM.
And the imminent launch to augment the existing satellite constellation can’t come soon enough, he noted.
The GPM observatory will replace the aging NASA/JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), satellite launched back in 1997.
“GPM is the direct follow-up to the currently orbiting TRMM satellite,” Azarbarzin explained.
“TRMM is reaching the end of its usable lifetime. GPM launches on February 27, 2014 and we hope it has some overlap with observations from TRMM.”
“The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory will provide high resolution global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours,” Dalia Kirschbaum, GPM research scientist, told me during an interview at Goddard.
It is vital to continuing the TRMM measurements and will help provide improved forecasts and advance warning of extreme super storms like Hurricane Sandy and Super Typhoon Haiyan, Azarbarzin and Kirschbaum explained.
Researchers will use the GPM measurements to study climate change, freshwater resources, floods and droughts, and hurricane formation and tracking.
“The water-cycle, so familiar to all school-age young scientists, is one of the most interesting, dynamic, and important elements in our studies of the Earth’s weather and climate,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in a statement.
“GPM will provide scientists and forecasters critical information to help us understand and cope with future extreme weather events and fresh water resources.”
NASA TV will carry the launch live with commentary starting at 12 Noon EST on Feb. 27.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing GPM reports and onsite coverage at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
And watch for Ken’s continuing planetary and human spaceflight news about Curiosity, Opportunity, Chang’e-3, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars, Orion and more.