NASA Data Helps Hurricane Recovery

Image: NOAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

Last November, Hurricanes Eta and Iota drenched South America just two weeks apart. Iota made landfall in Nicaragua within 20 miles of where Eta came ashore with destructive winds, and heavy rain flooded schools, harmed mangrove forests, and set off landslides. In the aftermath of both storms, NASA’s Coordination Center for Disaster Prevention in Central America helped local authorities plan their preparedness and response strategies. Using satellite images and data, they monitored damage and helped inform on-the-ground rescues. The Central American coordination is part of NASA’s broader Earth Applied Sciences Disasters program, which partners with local and international groups to gather data that builds resilience in a changing climate. 

Why This Matters: After last year’s record-breaking 30 named storms that brought us into the Greek alphabet, this year’s hurricane season is already underway, with Tropical Storm Fred expected to drench Florida this weekend. Hurricanes now intensify more quickly and generate heavier, slower-moving rainfall that can lead to flooding. NASA’s satellite images and data can monitor damage and provide communities with up-to-date information as they carry out rescue missions and recover from storms. This kind of data can save lives when essential services like electricity and road infrastructure are inaccessible. 

What’s Ahead for the 2021 Hurricane Season: Last week, NOAA upped its forecast for the hurricane season to higher chances of above-average storm activity. The agency predicts 15-21 named storms, with seven to 10 expected to be hurricanes. As many as five are expected to be major ones. The ocean as a whole is warming and strengthening storms— so, even though the agency increased its total number of expected storms, the projection for major hurricanes remained the same. This year, there’s also the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean, potentially extending hurricane season

On a shorter time scale, the Gulf of Mexico has rapidly warmed since the start of August, from a degree or two below average to a degree or two above. This increases the likelihood that a storm will intensify quickly if it comes into the gulf.

Up Next

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Mega-storms caused by atmospheric rivers were once thought to be once-in-a-millennia occurrences, but atmospheric rivers are flooding California more frequently due to the warming atmosphere. The latest mega-storm may put a dent in the mega-drought, but experts say California may be trapped in a vicious wet/dry cycle. It may not be time for Californians to build an ark just yet, but climate-resilient infrastructure would […]

Continue Reading 80 words
Another Year of La Niña May Extend the Western Drought

Another Year of La Niña May Extend the Western Drought

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer After a record-breaking drought, much of the West and Southwest has been hoping for a winter of rain. But with scientists predicting a second consecutive winter with La Niña conditions, the dry spell may be prolonged. La Niña is a climate pattern that tends to produce droughts in the […]

Continue Reading 338 words
Alisal Fire Only 5% Contained As Evacuations Ordered In Santa Barbara County

Alisal Fire Only 5% Contained As Evacuations Ordered In Santa Barbara County

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor As California’s summer fire season comes to a close, autumn’s Santa Ana winds have intensified a fast-moving wildfire now terrorizing Santa Barbara County. The Alisal fire began Monday afternoon. Since then, it has engulfed 16,801 acres and is only 5% contained, according to CalFire. As a result, a portion […]

Continue Reading 364 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.