Here’s What a Cyclone Looks Like From Space — in 3D

NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement mission returns its first images.

This is what a cyclone looks like to space radar. The red areas mark the most intense rainfall. The image was taken by NASA's Global Precipitation Mission March 10 over the Pacific Ocean.
National Journal
Alex Brown
March 25, 2014, 11:26 a.m.

NASA’s mis­sion to meas­ure every rain­drop and snow­flake on Earth is in­ten­ded to save lives from killer storms and al­low sci­ent­ists to keep tabs on the plan­et’s cli­mate.

Turns out, it’s also send­ing home some really cool im­ages of storms from out­er space.

The lead satel­lite for the Glob­al Pre­cip­it­a­tion Meas­ure­ment mis­sion launched last month in part­ner­ship with Ja­pan’s JAXA space agency. It’s part of a fleet of satel­lites that will help us learn about the wa­ter cycle, provid­ing valu­able in­form­a­tion about storms, droughts, floods, and mud­slides. The GPM mis­sion will also track cli­mate change’s ef­fects on Earth’s pre­cip­it­a­tion.

On Tues­day, NASA re­leased the first im­ages from the GPM Core Ob­ser­vat­ory. They’re of a March 10 cyc­lone over the Pa­cific Ocean. The im­ages pro­duced by radar and mi­crowave ima­ging give us a unique three-di­men­sion­al look at the storm and the in­tens­ity of the rain­fall with­in it.

“It was really ex­cit­ing to see this high-qual­ity GPM data for the first time,” said GPM pro­ject sci­ent­ist Gail Sko­fronick-Jack­son in a NASA re­lease. “I knew we had entered a new era in meas­ur­ing pre­cip­it­a­tion from space. We now can meas­ure glob­al pre­cip­it­a­tion of all types, from light drizzle to heavy down­pours to fall­ing snow.”

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