Satellite captures trio of massive storms lined up in the Atlantic

September 11, 2018, 10:14 a.m.
The order of storms in this photo is, from left to right, Florence, Isaac, and Helene.
Photo: CIRA/CSU and NOAA/NESDIS/RAMMB

Right in the middle of hurricane season, three storms are lining up in the Atlantic, as if making a beeline for the coast.

Florence was a Category 3 hurricane heading for the Carolina coast. Isaac was a Category 1 and Helene a Category 2. Florence has since been upgraded to Category 4. Isaac is now a tropical storm, but could return to hurricane status later in the week.

The image is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-E satellite, taken Monday at noon EDT. It's a color composite using three of the 16 channels from the Advanced Baseline Imager instrument onboard the satellite.

"The GOES-E satellite is the latest satellite we use to monitor weather over the United States and the Atlantic Ocean," Matt Rogers, Ph.D., research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University, tells MNN. "Previous satellites had fewer channels and much lower resolution, but all would have been able to see three hurricanes in the Atlantic, which actually happens a fair amount. I think we’ve had three at one point during the last several years!"

CIRA is one of 16 cooperative programs between NOAA and U.S. universities, helping to develop research that directly improves forecasting tools.

Satellite information helps researchers and forecasters monitor storm development.

"Last night, researchers at the National Hurricane Center were able to monitor how fast Florence grew in strength by looking at the hurricane using infrared data. Stronger storms within the hurricane grow taller and have colder signals in the infrared," Rogers says.

"The satellite imagery is extremely useful for forecasters to get information about storm location and direction/speed of travel, as well as many experimental products used to determine how strong the storm is at any time. For now, we can see that Hurricane Florence is rapidly developing into what should be a major hurricane. We'll see more about Isaac and Helene later."

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Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published on Sept. 10, 2018.