Staring down the eye of a monster hurricane

by Dave Hennen
CNN Senior Meteorologist

We have all seen the amazing close up tornado pictures, as storm chasers, in crazy looking cars that look like urban assault vehicles snap those close up pictures that we all love to look at, and marvel at nature’s fury.  This is an equally amazing picture of the most violent storm on earth at the moment.   The big difference is this was taken from a safe distance of 440 miles away in space.

NASA Terra Satellite

The picture taken yesterday from NASA’s Terra Satellite shows a close up of Super Typhoon Jelawat.   The storm is one of the strongest seen on earth this year.  At the time of the picture the storm had max winds of over 160 mph, with gusts to nearly 200 mph, and was a Category 5 storm.  That’s the highest a hurricane or typhoon can reach.  It’s only the 2nd Category 5 observed anywhere on earth this year.  The storm was located in the western Pacific east of the Philippine Islands.

Jelawat has a classic text-book eye.  This is the center of the storm where the winds are relatively calm and clear.  If you look closely you can even see the ocean at the bottom of the eye on the satellite picture.   Surrounding the 20-30 mile wide eye is the violent eye wall.  It’s here where the dense thunderstorms make up the most damaging part of the hurricane as 200 mph gusts spiral in to the calm center.  There is literally a wall surrounding the eye where hurricanes generally have their strongest winds.

NASA Terra Satellite

Inside the eye of the storm is likely an amazing picture.   While hurricane hunter planes routinely fly right into the center of storms in the Atlantic, this is not the case in the Pacific.  We can safely say though that this storm has what other large Category 5 storms have.  Something called the “Stadium Effect”.

This picture captured by NOAA in August of 2005 from a Hurricane Hunter plane flying into to then Category 5, Hurricane Katrina shows what it likely looks like inside of Jelawat.

NOAA Image from August 5, 2005

It’s like being in a big circular coliseum taking in your favorite college or NFL football teams, surrounded by seats and wall on every side.    This however is a stadium that you don’t want to step out of.

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