Finding Hot Towers in Hurricanes

The TRMM satellite radar captured this image of Hurricane Sandy (2012) one day before Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. While Sandy lacked a hot tower at this time, it did have a well-organized eyewall–the part of the hurricane where hot towers often form during periods of wind intensification.
Credit: NASA/JAXA.

It is difficult to increase the accuracy of hurricane-intensity forecasts, but such improvements have the potential to save lives and property.  Starting 50 years ago, scientists have pursued a line of inquiry that has tried to connect hurricane-intensity change to the existence of tall storm cells, called “hot towers,” that occasionally form near the eyes of some hurricanes.  During the past decade, NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite has been able to collect definitive statistics on the association of hot towers and hurricane intensification.

On September 10, 2013 from 11:30 am-12:30 pm in the Library’s Mary Pickford Theater (James Madison Building), Research Scientist Owen Kelley will tell the story of Finding Hot Towers in Hurricanes, and will discuss the amazing technology, the dramatic science, and the brilliant researcher who coined the term “hot tower” fifty years ago.

For the past 15 years, Owen Kelley has been part of the group at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who processes the data from the TRMM satellite and the soon-to-be-launched Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite.  Hurricane hot towers were the topic of his Ph.D. dissertation at George Mason University, and he has written several papers on the subject.  Dr. Kelley was interviewed about his hurricane research for a documentary that aired in 2007 on the National Geographic channel and for another that will air next year on Cable TV’s 3net channel.

This lecture will be recorded and later broadcast on the Library’s webcast and YouTube channel Topics in Science playlist.

This is not the first NASA lecture the Library has hosted about hurricanes. Check out Goddard research meteorologist Dr. Scott A. Braun’s 2009 lecture Peering into the Storm: NASA’s Exploration of Hurricanes.

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