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NASA's GPM sees towering thunderstorms in intensifying Tropical Storm Earl

August 04, 2016

Tropical storm Earl has been intensifying as it moves through the Caribbean Sea. The GPM satellite spotted hot towers, towering thunderstorms within Earl that indicate the storm may intensify.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) now predicts that Earl will be a hurricane before it hits Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula tomorrow afternoon. Earl is predicted by NHC to remain in a light to moderate vertical wind shear environment over very warm sea surface temperatures until landfall.

The Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core observatory satellite passed over intensifying tropical storm Earl in the Caribbean Sea northeast of Honduras on Aug. 2, 2016 at 11:56 p.m. EDT (Aug. 3, 2016 at 0356 UTC). GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) showed that powerful storms around Earl's forming eye were dropping extremely heavy rainfall. DPR found that rain was falling at a rate of over 251 mm (9.8 inches) per hour in a band of powerful convective storms.

GPM's Radar (DPR Ku band) were used to show in 3-D the towering thunderstorms near Earl's center reaching heights of over 16 km (9.9 miles). These strong thunderstorms called "hot towers" often lead to rapid intensification in a tropical cyclone. NASA research has shown that whenever there is the presence of hot towers, the storm usually intensifies within six hours. GPM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

On Aug. 3, 2016 a hurricane warning is in effect for Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico, southward to the Belize/Guatemala border and for the Bay Islands, Honduras. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the north coast of Honduras from Cabo Gracias a Dios westward to the Honduras/Guatemala border and north of Puerto Costa Maya to Punta Allen, Mexico.

The heavy rainfall rates seen by GPM are evident in the forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC forecast noted that Earl is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 8 to 12 inches over portions of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico through Thursday night. Very heavy rain will reach the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz between Thursday night and Saturday morning. Isolated maximum amounts of 16 inches are possible in Belize and Mexico.

At 2 p.m. EDT (1800 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Earl was located near latitude 16.8 North, longitude 85.6 West. Earl is moving toward the west near 14 mph (22 kph), and this general motion is expected to continue with some decrease in forward speed during the next 48 hours. On the forecast track, the core of Earl is expected to pass near the Honduras Bay Islands this afternoon, and then make landfall in Belize tonight or early Thursday.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 70 mph (110 kph) with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 12 hours or so, and Earl is expected to be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall along the coast of Belize.
For updated forecasts, visit NHC:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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