The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season had a slow start, with few named storms—and no hurricanes—in the first months of the season. But in September, the season threw out four hurricanes in a row. The first two hurricanes were both short-lived and relatively weak Category 1 hurricanes, Ernesto and Florence. But in mid-September, Hurricanes Gordon and Helene formed in quick succession, both reaching Category 3 strength a few days from each other. Of the four hurricanes, only Ernesto made landfall; a persistent ridgeline of high air pressure over the U.S. East Coast in September steered storms away from the United States into the North Atlantic.
This photo-like image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on September 16, 2006, at 12:55 p.m. local time (16:55 UTC). Gordon is a very large and well-defined hurricane in this image, possessing a distinct and tightly wound central portion, a strong and complete eyewall (cloud ring) around the eye of the storm, and a well-defined eye. South and east of the more mature Hurricane Gordon lies the larger, more sprawling, and younger Hurricane Helene. Both were Category 3 strength at the time, but Helene had only reached Category 3 status a few hours before, while Gordon had been at Category 3 stage for two days. This duet provides a glimpse of how storms’ appearances change as they mature.
The high-resolution image provided above is at MODIS’ full spatial resolution (level of detail) of 250 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response System provides this image at additional resolutions.
Hurricane Helene was the eighth named storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Helene intensified from a tropical depression (area of low air pressure) south of the Cape Verde Islands and became a tropical storm on September 12.