Tropical Cyclone Elita (09S)

Tropical Cyclone Elita (09S)
  • Credit:

    Images produced by Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC) and caption by Steve Lang (SSAI/NASA GSFC).

Having formed just off the west coast of the island of Madagascar on the 26th of January 2004, Tropical cyclone Elita (9S) then came ashore on the 29th near the coastal town of Mahajanga on the northwest coast. Elita then moved southwest parallel to the coast line before drifting back out over the Mozambique Channel on the 1st of February. Elita strengthened into a minimal category 1 cyclone with winds estimated at 75 mph by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center on the 2nd. The system then came ashore again on the western coastline of Madagascar near the town of Morondava before moving southeast across the island on the 3rd and exiting on the east coast. Four more people were reported killed as a result of Elita coming ashore for the second time and many thousands were reported to be left homeless.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured this image of Elita just after it had made landfall for the second time. The image was taken at 1:33 UTC on 3 February 2004. Rain rates are shown in the center swath from the TRMM Precipitation Radar (PR), the first radar of its kind in space, while rain rates in the outer swath are from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI). The rain rates are overlaid on infrared (IR) data from the TRMM Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS). TRMM reveals that the rainfall pattern around Elita is very asymmetrical. Almost all of the rain close to the center is on the right-hand side. Only a very localized area of intense rain is observed near the center (small red spot) with most of the rain being moderate (green) to light (blue) in intensity. There is still good banding evident in the rain field associated with the storm's circulation. Heavy rain rates (darker reds) are present in an outer rainband to the north. The second image is a vertical slice as seen from the west through the storm showing the location of the heavier rain rates (darker reds) near the center and in the outer rainbands.

The fact that Elita hovered for many days near the same area resulted in copious amounts of rainfall. The TRMM-based, near-real time Multi- satellite Precipitation Analysis (MPA) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center monitors rainfall over the global tropics. The last image shows MPA rainfall totals for the period 27 January to 3 February, 2004. It shows areas of rainfall exceeding 20 inches (darker reds) for the period all along the western coastline of Madagascar that also extend across the Mozambique Channel to the east coast of Mozambique.

TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA.

Images & Animations


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  • Data Date:

    January 28, 2004
  • Visualization Date:

    February 5, 2004
  • Sensor(s):

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration