On Wednesday morning, Hurricane Irma slammed into the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda with 185 mph winds that felt like bombs. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, later announced that 95 percent of Barbuda’s government and personal property had been damaged by the Category 5 storm, leaving 50 percent of the island’s population homeless.
This catastrophic event was captured from above by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Suomi NPP Satellite, which happened to be passing overhead. In what NASA and NOAA describe as a “unique image”, the satellites captured the moment that Barbuda was in the center of the storm’s eye.
The image below was taken with the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite aboard the satellite and reveals what’s known as “visible tropospheric gravity waves,” which signify that rising waves were forming the thunderstorms that make up the storm’s tropical cyclones when the photo was taken. Because there was a full, illuminating moon when this image was captured, you can also see evidence of mesovortices — small vertical vortexes of air that happen during thunderstorms — if you zoom in.
On Thursday, the Suomi NPP satellite captured another incredible image of Irma as she passed over the northwest of Puerto Rico at 2:57 AM that morning. The satellite’s infrared imagery reveals that the cloud temperatures on top of the hurricane are minus 117.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and the clouds stretch from the eastern side to the south side of the eye. Puerto Rico wasn’t hit with the full brunt of the storm at the time, but it still created significant damages and caused one million people to lose power.
Another NASA satellite, called Aqua, also captured an incredible image of the storm over Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands with its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. This satellite usually collects information about the evaporation of oceans, water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds, precipitation, and soil moisture, but this time it confirmed the cloud temperatures caught by the Suomi NPP satellite, which points to the strongest parts of the hurricane.
As Irma continues to devastate the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands on Thursday, people in Florida are currently preparing for the worst. At 12 PM EST, the National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for the Florida Keys, and Florida Governor Rick Scott urged people to evacuate as soon as possible.