Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

PHOTO: NASA’s view of Hurricane Irene in 3-D

Rocked by an unusual earthquake on Tuesday, the Atlantic seaboard is now settling into the more familiar fare of hurricane season. Hurricane Irene has swiftly shaped itself into the first major hurricane to hit the East Coast in seven years. reports that as of Friday, “the hurricane warning area was expanded and now covers a large chunk of the East Coast from North Carolina to Sandy Hook, N.J., which is south of New York City. A hurricane watch [has] extended even farther north and includes Long Island, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Mass.” In other words, 65 million people may be influenced by this storm.

Meanwhile, NASA has been busy imaging the hurricane from space. Posting multiple images of the storm, the space agency’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) has provided important information on “rainfall rates, hot towering clouds that act as hurricane heat engines, and cloud heights.” As the TRMM satellite repeatedly sweeps over Irene, we are seeing the hurricane as never before.

Pictured above is a 3-D view of Irene as imaged by TRMM on August 24th. As NASA writes, “this image of Irene passing over the Bahamas “revealed once again the presence of a deep convective tower within the eyewall. The red area indicates rainfall rates of 50mm/hr, while yellow and green areas indicate moderate rainfall between .78 to1.57 inches (20-40 mm) per hour.”

Irene is expected to make first landfall on Saturday in North Carolina. Heightened waves have already started slamming the state’s Outer Banks.

Image Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce