Topic 2b (part 1) - Sea surface temperature and tropical storms

Tropical storms are a major threat in many countries. The ocean plays a major role in tropical storm generation, their frequency, duration and intensity against a backdrop of a warming world.

The addition of ocean observing satellites enables better forecasting of their trajectories and intensity.

Sentinel 3 and its cutting-edge sensors are opening new avenues for monitoring our oceans. It is important to have a good understanding of the accuracy and the uncertainty of these observations, so scientists compare in-situ data coming from drifting buoys and other satellite data.

Combining datasets of sea surface temperature measurements from different satellites over time gives a valuable insight into the temperature changes of the ocean. The intensity of a tropical storm is directly influenced by the rise in sea surface temperature. This means changes in the temperature of the ocean have direct effects on the intensity of tropical storms.

Optional mini task:

To view active storms download the Living Earth mobile app (only compatible with Apple devices) and use the storm symbol on the bottom tool bar to see where active storms are currently located. Alternatively view the US National Hurricane Center. Where are the current storms that you can see? How strong are they?

Featured Educators:

  • Dr Anne O’Carroll

Explore the data

EUMETSAT Oceans MOOC Data Viewer

View featured satellites on the satellite tracking app

Don’t forget you can download the video and transcript with the links on the right.


Ocean temperature column below hurricane

Simulated Upper Ocean Temperature Response Underneath a Hurricane

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene image taken by GOES-13

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina image taken by NOAA-16 on August 28, 2005.

Hurricane Katrina 2

Hurricane Katrina, as seen by the GEOS-12 satellite.

Global mean sea surface

Global mean sea surface

Global Sea Surface Temperature

Taken by Sentinel 3A on 04/07/2016

Tropical Pacific

Comparison between OSTIA (monthly climate) analysis and IASI (Numerical Weather prediction) for the Tropical Pacific

Eastern North Pacific Tropical Forecast

Tropical cyclone formation potential for the 5 day period ending on October 14th 2016.

Hurricane Mathew VIIRS

On Oct. 9 at 3:40 a.m. EDT VIIRS data from NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite showed cloud top temperatures of powerful storms as cold as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (yellow) north of the center of circulation.

Hurricane Mathew

On Oct. 8 at 2:20 p.m. EDT NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of Hurricane Matthew’s clouds over the southeastern United States.