Hurricane double whammy

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 30 2010 4:38 PM

Hurricane double whammy

Holy Hurricanes. NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite caught this incredible and beautiful image of two major hurricanes in the western Atlantic ocean:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The northern one is Danielle, the southern Earl. This image, taken on the morning of August 29 (just a few hours ago as I write this) shows them off the US east coast. The image has the Leeward Islands -- north of Venezuela and east of Puerto Rico -- outlined on the western side of Earl. It's not likely that either will have their eyes move over land, but they hardly need to for there to be an impact. Earl is Category 4 as it is now (150 mph sustained winds) but that's near the eye; the edges will almost certainly sweep over the coast of North Carolina which still means lots of wind and rain. Most likely the coast will be spared a full onslaught, but if you live there, it's best to be prepared for stormy weather.

Danielle is weaker and likely to wane more as it moves north; the waters are colder, starving it of the heat needed to sustain its shape and coherence. Incredibly, though, it's 1000 km (600 miles) across. Still, it's unlikely to have much of an impact on the US.

Chris Mooney at Discover's The Intersection blog is keeping a close eye on these, as well as on Fiona, which is starting to gain strength in the Atlantic as well. Chris wrote the fascinating book Storm World, which is about hurricanes, so it's no surprise he's on top of this. You can also read NASA's Terra page about this image to learn more.


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