September 18, 2012 - Hurricane Michael (13L) in the Atlantic Ocean

Hurricane Michael (13L) in the Atlantic Ocean

The first major hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Michael’s maximum sustained winds peaked at 115 mph (185 km/h) on September 6. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported winds reached that strength at 09:00 UTC (11:00 a.m. AST)that day. The storm stayed strong for most of the day, but by 21:00 UTC (11:00 p.m. AST), Michael had slowly begun to weaken, with winds reduced to 110 mph (175 km/h),bringing the storm down from a Category 3 to a strong Category 2 hurricane.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of Hurricane Michael at 15:55 UTC (5:55 p.m. AST)on September 10. Just 55 minutes before, the NHC had reported that the maximum sustained winds were 80 mph (30 km/h). Although still at hurricane strength, Michael was fighting wind shear from Tropical Storm Leslie, which swirled in the Atlantic northwest of Michael, as well as the cooler waters found in the more northerly latitudes.

In this image, Michael appears as a compact storm with a rather large and partially clouded eye. The storm maintains an apostrophe shape, but the convection bands are somewhat indistinct.

After this image was captured, the satellite imagery become more ragged as Michael lost its punch. By the next morning Michael had become a Tropical Storm, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 km/h). A few hours later Michael became a “tight swirl of clouds” and the NHC ceased reporting on the storm.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration (NOAA), a “Major Hurricane” is any hurricane that reaches Category 3 status or higher (the scale goes to Category 5) on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. A Category 3 storm carries winds of 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h), and the expected damage from such a storm on land is considered “devastating”.

From 1851-2006 there have been a total of 96 major hurricanes which made landfall, with 75 of those at Category 3 strength. In that same period, 279 hurricanes of any strength made landfall. Hurricane Michael formed near Cape Verde and travelled over the Atlantic Ocean, and never threatened land.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 9/10/2012
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC