Even though Cyclone Gene was winding down when the QuikSCAT satellite observed it on February 4, 2008, the storm still exhibited the classic wind structure of a well-formed cyclone. A wide area of red indicates moderately strong winds throughout most of the storm. Bands of stronger winds, depicted in purple, circle a calm eye. The barbs, which indicate wind direction, show that winds were circling the eye. White barbs point to areas of heavy rain. Shortly after QuikSCAT acquired this data at 5:55 p.m., local time, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated the storm’s sustained winds to be 45 knots (83 kilometers per hour or 52 miles per hour).
QuikSCAT measures a storm’s wind speed and direction using a scatterometer, a device that sends pulses of microwave energy through the atmosphere to the ocean surface and measures the energy that bounces back from the wind-roughened surface. The energy of the microwave pulses changes depending on wind speed and direction, giving scientists a way to monitor wind around the world. This technique does not work over land, but allows measurements in storms over oceans.
Throughout its lifetime, Gene left serious damage on the island nations of Fiji and Vanuatu. The storm struck Fiji’s islands between January 27 and January 30, causing 7 deaths and widespread minor damage to crops and buildings, said the Asia-Pacific Center for Emergency and Development Information. The storm was stronger by the time it crossed over Vanuatu. The islands of Futuna and Anatom reported the loss of many homes, schools, churches, and other buildings, said the Asia-Pacific Center for Emergency and Development Information. As of February 5, the storm was moving away from inhabited islands.
NASA image courtesy of David Long, Brigham Young University, on the QuikSCAT Science Team, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Caption by Holli Riebeek.