Cyclone Pam was heading in a southwesterly direction when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image at 1:30 p.m. local time (2:30 Universal Time) on March 13, 2015. Not long after the image was acquired, the storm crossed over the island of Efate, which is home to Vanuatu’s capital city, Port Vila.
The eastern side of Efate likely took the strongest hit from the cyclone’s eyewall, but Port Vila, on the southwestern side of the island, faced extremely destructive conditions. As the storm approached the city, it had sustained winds up to 265 kilometers (165 miles) per hour, making it the equivalent of a category 5 cyclone. Dozens of people are feared dead and forecasters expect flooding and catastrophic damage in the city.
On the same day, another major tropical cyclone—Category 3 Olwyn—made landfall in Western Australia near the city of Carnarvon. The lower image was acquired at 10:55 am local time (2:55 UTC) by MODIS on NASA’s Terra satellite. Thousands of people in Carnarvon lost power as a result of the storm, which weakened as it pushed inland.
It has been an unusually busy week for tropical cyclones in the vicinity of Australia. The mosaic below shows three storms—Pam, Nathan, and Olwyn—swirling near the continent on March 11, 2015. The mosaic is based on data collected during three orbital passes of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP. Other satellite instruments that can observe more of Earth’s surface at once captured views with a fourth tropical cyclone. The fourth storm, Bavi, is in the Pacific Ocean well north of Pam.
- NASA Earth Observatory (2013, March 5) In a Warming World, Storms May Be Fewer but Stronger.
NASA images courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. NASA VIIRS image by Jesse Allen, using data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Adam Voiland.