Four Hurricanes in Four Orbits

On September 14, 2004 in the span of 5 hours, NASA's Aqua satellite "bagged" four hurricanes on four consecutive orbits. First the satellite passed over Hurricane Jeanne in the Atlantic as the storm was over the Virgin Islands . One orbit later it passed over Ivan in the Gulf Of Mexico as the hurricane headed towards Alabama. The subsequent orbit found Aqua passing over Hurricane Javier off the Mexican coast. Finally on the next orbit, the satellite passed over Hurricane Isis in the Pacific.

The images below the large map show all four hurricanes as seen through the infrared and microwave channels from an instrument on board Aqua called the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS). AIRS also has a visible sensor, but there are no visible images since all passes occurred at night around 2:30 am local daylight savings time. This illustrates how useful infrared and microwave remote sensing is - we can make complete observations in the dark. And when data from both the infrared and microwave sensors are combined, the result is even more powerful - we can make high-quality observations through clouds.

And for the trivia buffs out there, both pairs of hurricanes have names that begin with I and J. In the Atlantic we find hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne, while in the Pacific we have Isis and Javier. This shows that the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane season has so far proceeded at the same pace. There are usually more hurricanes in the Pacific than the Atlantic, but this year the pace has picked up in the Atlantic.