To remote sensing scientists, peering directly into the eye of a tropical storm is like hitting a hole in one. That’s exactly what NASA’s CloudSat satellite did on May 16th, completing a stunning overpass of Typhoon Dolphin as the category 4 storm churned across the west Pacific.
Image: NASA Earth Observatory
CloudSat, which comprises part of NASA’s Earth-orbiting observatory, sends pulses of microwave energy through our planet’s atmosphere, some of which is reflected back to the spacecraft. Conceptually, CloudSat is similar to another tool we looked at last week, RapidScat, which NASA uses for mapping wind speed and direction. The strength of the signal CloudSat receives is related to the amount of ice or water in a cloud, while the time delay can be used to calculate the distance between the cloud and the Earth’s surface.