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Severe Storm over the Red Sea

Severe Storm over the Red Sea

An Egyptian ferry carrying more than 1,300 people sank on February 2, 2006, in the northern Red Sea as strong storms swept across the region. While the exact cause of the disaster was not certain, the most likely reason was bad weather and high seas. At the time of the incident, a potent storm was advancing eastward over Egpyt and the western Mediterranean Sea. Out ahead of this advancing storm, strong southerly winds drew warm moist air up from the south. These conditions favour the development of severe storms.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite observed the storm at 04:20 UTC on February 3, 2006 (6:20 a.m. in Egypt), just a few hours after radar contact with the ferry was lost. The image shows the horizontal distribution of rain rates (top-down view) observed by the TRMM satellite. The image reveals that an intense thunderstorm complex had just come ashore on the Saudi Arabia coastline, after having crossed the northern Red Sea. The storm complex contained a sizeable area of heavy rain, with rates of 50 millimeters per hour (dark red areas). While not a direct measure of storm intensity, the heavy rain and the shape and orientation of the storm complex indicate that the storm was severe.

In this image, rain rates in the center swath are from the TRMM Precipitation Radar, while rain rates in the outer swath are from the TRMM Microwave Imager. The rain rates are overlaid on infrared data from the TRMM Visible Infrared Scanner.

The TRMM satellite was launched into service in November of 1997. Designed to measure rainfall over the global tropics, TRMM is armed with both passive and active sensors, including the first and only precipitation radar in space. TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency, JAXA.

NASA images produced by Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC) and caption by Steve Lang (SSAI/NASA GSFC).