NASA Space Place – Studying Storms From The Sky

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in November, 2017.

By Teagan Wall

2013february2_spaceplaceThe United States had a rough hurricane season this year. Scientists collect information before and during hurricanes to understand the storms and help people stay safe. However, collecting information during a violent storm is very difficult.

Hurricanes are constantly changing. This means that we need a lot of really precise data about the storm. It’s pretty hard to learn about hurricanes while inside the storm, and instruments on the ground can be broken by high winds and flooding. One solution is to study hurricanes from above. NASA and NOAA can use satellites to keep an eye on storms that are difficult to study on the ground.

In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria was so strong that it knocked out radar before it even hit land. Radar can be used to predict a storm’s path and intensity—and without radar, it is difficult to tell how intense a storm will be. Luckily, scientists were able to use information from a weather satellite called GOES-16, short for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – 16.

The “G” in GOES-16 stands for geostationary. This means that the satellite is always above the same place on the Earth, so during Hurricane Maria, it never lost sight of the storm. GOES-16’s job as a weather satellite hasn’t officially started yet, but it was collecting information and was able to help.

From 22,000 miles above Earth, GOES-16 watched Hurricane Maria, and kept scientists on the ground up to date. Knowing where a storm is—and what it’s doing—can help keep people safe, and get help to the people that need it.

Hurricanes can also have a huge impact on the environment—even after they’re gone. To learn about how Hurricane Irma affected the Florida coast, scientists used images from an environmental satellite called Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi-NPP. One of the instruments on this satellite, called VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), took pictures of Florida before and after the Hurricane.

Hurricane Irma was so big and powerful, that it moved massive amounts of dirt, water and pollution. The information captured by VIIRS can tell scientists how and where these particles are moving in the water. This can help with recovery efforts, and help us design better ways to prepare for hurricanes in the future.

By using satellites like GOES-16 and Suomi-NPP to observe severe storms, researchers and experts stay up to date in a safe and fast way. The more we know about hurricanes, the more effectively we can protect people and the environment from them in the future.

To learn more about hurricanes, check out NASA Space Place:

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Caption: These images of Florida and the Bahamas were captured by a satellite called Suomi-NPP. The image on the left was taken before Hurricane Irma and the image on the right was taken after the hurricane. The light color along the coast is dirt, sand and garbage brought up by the storm. Image credit: NASA/NOAA

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

“Tales Of A Time Traveler” At The Ho Tung Visualization Laboratory Until December 16th

Follow Dr. Who star, David Tennant, on adventure through time and explore this history of our cosmos from Earth Time to Star Time to Cosmos Time.

Admission is free and open to all. The Ho Tung Vis Lab (, 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, NY 13346) is located on the 4th floor of the Ho Science Center on the Colgate campus. Showings are Fridays at 6:15 and Saturdays at 2:00 PM from November 3 through December 16.

Google Map to the Ho Tung Vis Lab. Click to make directions.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “Searching For New Worlds”

Saturday – November 18, 9:30-11:00am

Please RSVP to

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

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Speaker: Maryame El Moutamid, Ph.D., Research Associate, Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Carl Sagan Institute

Overview: In the last two decades, thousands of planets have been discovered outside our solar system. Some of them are potentially habitable, i.e. they orbit a region around their star where liquid water may be present on their surface, a necessary condition for life as we know it. Join me in reviewing the latest findings by scientists from around the world on exoplanets as we explore the path forward over the next decade in studying these worlds and searching for signs of life.

Biography: Maryame El Moutamid is a research associate at Cornell University. She is an expert in orbital dynamics and celestial mechanics, especially orbital resonances of satellites and exoplanets. Her current research concerns planetary ring dynamics and satellite orbital dynamics, and their connections with giant planet interior structure in the context of the Cassini/NASA mission. Maryame earned her Ph.D. in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Celestial Mechanics from PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres) Research University and Paris Observatory in September 2013, and then moved to Cornell University. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, learning more about food from the world, and practicing Judo.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit