Tropical Cyclone Fritz first formed into a tropical cyclone on 10 February 2004 in the
Coral Sea east of Queensland, Australia. The storm then came ashore on the
morning of the 11th (LST) as a minimal cyclone along the northeast
coastline of Queensland just north of Cape Melville. Most of the rainfall with Fritz was away
from the center near Weipa to the north and Cairns to the south. The
system weakened into a tropical depression over land and continued
moving westward cutting across the Cape York Peninsula before re-emerging over the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It then re-intensified back into a Category 1 cyclone on the 12th. Fritz's
circulation, however, was too disrupted over land to have time to get
too well organized and thus allow for significant strengthening.
However, it did manage to reach Category 2 status with peak wind gusts
exceeding 125 kph (75 mph) before crossing Mornington Island in the
southern Gulf of Carpentaria. Fritz then made landfall again on the
far northwest coast of Queensland.
The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured these
unique images of Cyclone Fritz while it was in the southern Gulf of
Carpentaria. The images were taken at 14:18 UTC on 11 February 2004
(12:18 am Australian EST 12 February 2004). At the time, Fritz was
categorized as a Category 1 cyclone by the Brisbane Tropical Cyclone
Warning Centre with peak wind gusts of less then 125 kph (75 mph). The
first image shows the horizontal distribution of rain rates as seen by
the TRMM satellite. Rain rates in the center swath are from the TRMM
Precipitation Radar (PR), the first precipitation radar in space, while
rain rates in the outer swath are from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI).
The rain rates are overlaid on infrared (IR) data from the TRMM Visible
Infrared Scanner (VIRS). Fritz is shown to have a poorly organized
circulation with no discernable eyewall. At this time only small,
isolated areas of heavy rainfall are present (dark red spots). Tropical
cyclones need the heat that is released when water vapor condenses into
the cloud droplets that form the precipitation to drive the storm. This
process is most efficient when the storm is well-organized and the
heating takes place near the center. The second image shows a vertical
cross section looking towards the west through the northern part of
storm from the TRMM PR. It shows areas of heavy rainfall (darker reds)
associated with rainbands away from the center of circulation.
TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA.
Images produced by Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC) and caption by Steve Lang (SSAI/NASA GSFC).