New Earth-Orbiting Microwave Gun Is Making Killer Maps Of Wind Dynamics

New Earth-Orbiting Microwave Gun Is Making Killer Maps Of Wind Dynamics

On May 10th, tropical storm Ana — the first named storm of this year’s North Atlantic hurricane season — made landfall along the USA’s Carolina coast. NASA scientists took the opportunity to observe the storm’s wind dynamics with one of their newest toys and produced this spectacular wind map while they were at it.

The Rapid Scatterometer joined the rest of NASA’s Earth Observing fleet on the International Space Station last September. RapidScat is basically a giant microwave gun that sends pulses of radiation to the ocean’s surface, which then bounce back toward the instrument’s sensor. Choppy waters relay a more powerful signal that quiet waters, information which RapidScat uses to determine wind speed and direction.

According to NASA:

The image above was produced with data acquired by RapidScat as Ana approached the coast on the afternoon of May 8, 2015. Arrows represent the direction of near-surface winds. Shades of blue indicate the range of wind speeds (lighter blue and green represent faster-moving winds). The image below, acquired with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows a natural-colour view of the same storm as it appeared on the morning of May 9.

Hurricane season is just getting started, and we can expect plenty more cool NASA images as things kick into high gear. [NASA Earth Observatory]