Date: Tue, 18.05.21 13:00
MODIS Pic of the Day 18 May 2021
An unusually powerful tropical cyclone named Tauktae struck the Indian
state of Gujarat on May 17, 2021. The Moderate Resolution Imaging
Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a
true-color image of the storm on May 16 as Tropical Cyclone Tauktae
spun just off the coast of India as it charged northward to make
landfall between Porbandar and Mahuva less than 24 hours later.
As Tauktae approached land, the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center
reported maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (185 km/h) and gusts up to
145 mph (230 km/h), equivalent to a strong Category 3 storm on the
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. That made Tauktae the
fifth-strongest storm observed in the Arabian Sea since 1998. Winds of
that strength can easily snap trees, topple power lines, and damage
homes. The storm also pushed a destructive storm surge of water onto
the Indian coast; reports suggest it may have been as high as 3 meters
(10 feet) in some areas.
Even before making landfall, Tauktae caused a trail of destruction in
Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra as it brushed India’s northwest
coast over the weekend. According to news reports, the storm
contributed to the deaths of at least 12 people, destroyed hundreds of
homes, and caused power outages and traffic jams. More than 150,000
people evacuated Gujarat in anticipation of Tauktae’s arrival.
The North Indian Ocean generates only about 7 percent of the world’s
tropical cyclones, but storms can be quite devastating when they occur
because of the large number of people who live along low-lying
coastlines. Compared to the Bengal Sea to the east, cyclones are
uncommon in the Arabian Sea, an area that typically sees one or two
storms per year. Cool water temperatures, dry air, and unfavorable
upper-level winds typically make storms in the Arabian Sea weak and
short-lived, though powerful storms occasionally come together under
the right environmental conditions. In Tauktae’s case, conditions were
ideal. Upper-level winds were calm and conducive to storm formation.
Sea surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea were about 31° Celsius (88°
Fahrenheit) as the storm approached Gujarat, a few degrees warmer than
usual for mid-May. A rule of thumb among scientists is that ocean
temperatures should be above 27° C to sustain a tropical cyclone.
During the past few decades, a group of NOAA researchers have observed
an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea,
particularly in the post-monsoon season. The group’s modeling results
indicate that global warming and rising ocean temperatures are among
the reasons for the change.
Date Acquired: 5/16/2021
Resolutions: 1km (1.9 MB), 500m (5.4 MB), 250m (3.7 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
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