NASA Data Visualization of the Record-Breaking 2020 Hurricane Season

Data visualization of the 2020 Hurricane Season. Starts on May 1, 2020 just showing Sea Surface Temperatures and cloud cover. Precipitation data then dissolves in as hurricanes are tracked throughout 2020. Hurricane tracks include Hurricane strengths depicted with the letter “T” for Tropical Storm and numbers for each storm’s respective strength.

The visualization then culminates by showing all the storm tracks at once. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season smashed records with an unprecedented 30 named storms, marking the fifth year in a row with above-average hurricane activity. The National Weather Service noted that every mile of the U.S. Atlantic coast was under a tropical watch or warning in 2020. NOAA reported the most billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. in a single year in the 40 years of record-keeping, with significant contributions from the five storms that made landfall in the U.S.

This visualization shows the hurricanes and tropical storms of 2020 as seen by NASA’s Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) – a data product combining precipitation observations from infrared and microwave satellite sensors united by the GPM Core Observatory. IMERG provides near real-time half-hourly precipitation estimates at ~10km resolution for the entire globe, helping researchers better understand Earth’s water cycle and extreme weather events, with applications for disaster management, tracking disease, resource management, energy production and food security. IMERG rain rates (in mm/hr) are overlaid on infrared cloud data from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Cloud Composite dataset together with storm tracks from the NOAA National Hurricane Center (NHC) Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecasting (ATCF) model. Sea surface temperatures (SST) are also shown over the oceans, derived from the NASA Multi-sensor Ultra-high Resolution (MUR) dataset, which combines data from multiple geostationary and orbiting satellites.

Sea surface temperatures play an important role in hurricane formation and development, with warmer temperatures linked to more intense storms. 2020 was the warmest year on record, and this year’s hurricane season brought many examples of storms that intensified quickly: ten of the 30 named storms showed rapid intensification.