Satellite images of massive cyclone hitting Queensland coast

Posted by mjs76 at Feb 03, 2011 02:45 PM |
Earth Observation Science researchers at the University of Leicester have used data from two satellites – one European, one Japanese – to produce astounding still and moving images of cyclone Yasi as it reached the Queensland coast.

As if Australia hadn’t had enough weather problems recently, now it’s fending off cyclone Yasi.

And while there are plenty of pictures across the media showing the destruction wrought at ground level, to really grasp the size and strength of Yasi requires a view from space.

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Envisat/MERIS image, 1 February 2011. data (c) ESA; image: University of Leicester

Scientists in our Earth Observation Science group have used data obtained by the MERIS instrument on ESA’s Envisat on Tuesday and further information provided by Japan’s MTSAT-2 yesterday to produce a range of images, including a 16-second video clip which you can watch on YouTube.

Envisat was launched into polar orbit in 2002 and has recently been boosted to a new orbit that will keep it functioning until 2013. One of its principal missions was to extend our understanding of cloud systems by measuring height, thickness and content.

Much of this data comes from MERIS, an imaging spectrometer which scans in the visible spectrum across a path 1,150km wide.

Launched in 2006 but only recently fully operational, MTSAT-2 is a joint project between the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

It is in equatorial geostationary orbit, 36,000km up at 145 degrees East which puts it pretty much at the same longitude as Cairns, which narrowly escaped the full brunt of Yasi’s landfall. MTSAT-2 has a dual mission - air traffic monitoring and meteorology – and carries both visible and infrared radiometers.

Cyclone Yasi originated near Fiji in late January, growing in strength as it moved westwards. It was classified as a category 4 cyclone on 1 February and upgraded to category 5 the following day.

Despite fears that it could hit the major population centres of Cairns or Townsville, it hit the coast inbetween, near the small town of Cardwell, thereby greatly reducing the damage inflicted.

Although that’s not much consolation for the people of Cardwell.

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MTSAT-2 image, 2.00pm, 2 February 2011. data (c) JMA; image: University of Leicester