Thunderstorms Across the Southern US
Images produced by Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC) and caption by Steve Lang
An advancing frontal system has brought heavy rains to the Mississippi Valley
region and the northern Gulf Coast. Low pressure over the central plains
tapped into abundant gulf moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to produce numerous
storms ahead of an advancing cold front. Deep-layer southerly winds in front of
the low transported warm, moist air up from the Gulf northward into the
Mississippi Valley. Storms that formed within this moist air ahead of the
cold front deposited significant amounts of rain from eastern Texas up through
the Mississippi Valley and over to the Florida panhandle. The continuous
regeneration of storms all the way down into the Gulf of Mexico combined with
their movement to the north led to an effect known as “training” whereby
several different storms pass over the same area. This can lead to significant
The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite took this image
of a cluster of storms as they were approaching the Houston area. The image
was taken at 15:50 UTC (9:50 am CST) on 17 November 2003, and it shows rainfall
rates from the TRMM Precipitation Radar (PR) in the inner swath and the TRMM
Microwave Imager (TMI) in the outer swath overlaid on visible data from the
TRMM Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS) in white. Areas of heavy rainfall (red
areas) associated with convective storms are embedded within areas of moderate
(green areas) to light rain (blue areas). These storms spawned up to 21 tornadoes and flooded the Houston area, causing 25 to 30 million dollars worth of damage, according to news reports. One person drowned in the high waters.
TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency NASDA.
This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.