The SeaWinds scatterometer aboard NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite collected the data used to create this multicolored image of hurricane Howard off the Southern Coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This image taken on September 2nd at 4:25pm PDT, shows near-surface winds 10 meters above the ocean surface.
The colored background shows the near-surface wind speeds at 2.5 km resolution, with the highest wind speeds, purple, in the center, and lower wind speeds around the outer edges of the storm. The black barbs indicate wind speed and direction at QuikSCAT’s nominal 25 km resolution; white barbs indicate areas of heavy rain.
The black grid marks out latitude and longitude. The vertical lines of longitude start at 120 West on the left and go to 109 West, with one line per degree. The horizontal lines of latitude start at 15 degrees North on the bottom and run to 27 degrees North, each line again indicating a single degree.
NASA’s Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) spacecraft was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on June 19, 1999. QuikScat carries the SeaWinds scatterometer, a specialized microwave radar that measures near-surface wind speed and direction under all weather and cloud conditions over the Earth’s oceans.
In recent years, the ability to detect and track severe storms has been dramatically enhanced by the advent of weather satellites. Data from the SeaWinds scatterometer is augmenting traditional satellite images of clouds by providing direct measurements of surface winds to compare with the observed cloud patterns in an effort to better determine a hurricane’s location, direction, structure, and strength. Specifically, these wind data are helping meteorologists to more accurately identify the extent of gale-force winds associated with a storm, while supplying inputs to numerical models that provide advanced warning of high waves and flooding.