Hurricane season is in full swing, with two major Pacific storms, Madeline and Lester, headed for potential landfall on Hawaii, while Hurricane Gaston charges through the Atlantic off the east coast of the United States.
From its 250-mile-high perch above the Earth's surface, the International Space Station (ISS) captured timelapses of all three of these hurricanes within 24 hours on Tuesday, as it made its orbital rounds. The footage is compiled in this newly released video from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Hurricanes Lester, Madeline, and Gaston recorded by the ISS. Video: NASA Johnson/YouTube
It can be somewhat jarring to behold these powerful storms from space, knowing the kind of impact they may have on earthly communities. From below, these storms are raging forces of nature that can level buildings, destroy power grids, and flood entire cities. From above, they are eerily ethereal; bright white galaxies of cloud swirling around navel-shaped cores.
But the point of filming these space-down views is not only to show off their extraordinary macro-scale properties. NASA has a dedicated team of hurricane specialists devoted to tracking hurricanes and tropical storms, predicting their progress, and analyzing trends over long-term periods. Satellite perspectives of turbulent weather is a crucial link in the chain of preparing affected communities for potential landfall and estimating the scale of potential disasters.
To that point, Hurricane Madeline has been downgraded from the Category 4 rager recorded by the ISS to a Category 1 hurricane, which winds of 90 miles per hour. It is projected to miss Hawaii by only a small margin on Wednesday afternoon, so the state is still under a Hurricane Warning at this time.
As of this reporting, Hurricane Lester remained a strong Category 4 storm, and is "the longest-lasting [Northeastern] Pacific major hurricane of 2016 to date," according to a tweet from meteorologist Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University. It is projected to pass by Hawaii over the long Labor Day weekend.
Fortunately, over in the Atlantic, Hurricane Gaston is losing steam, and is not expected to make landfall. Not only is that a relief for the eastern seaboard, it also gives specialists like Eric Blake, an expert based at the National Hurricane Center, free reign to ogle at the incredible beauty of these storms.