John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This space-based footage shows Hurricane Isaac swelling from a tropical storm into full-blown Category 1 hurricane earlier today.
Residents of the Gulf Coast have had a couple of uneasy days to ponder the arrival of Isaac, a tropical storm that around noon today whipped itself into a Category 1 hurricane. During this waiting period, the storm crashed the GOP convention in Tampa, buffaloed over the Gulf of Mexico and is now pushing into the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Though it's rated as the least fierce category of hurricane, with face-wrinkling winds of about 75 m.p.h., footage shot from space shows that a hurricane is still a damn hurricane: something that demands awe and respect. The tempest has surrounded itself with a titanic doughnut of tropical storm-force winds measuring 410 miles wide. Its cloud cover darkens east Texas to the west and the Carolinas to the east. New Orleans has shut down its public schools until Friday, and Louisiana and Mississippi are bracing for a storm surge that could push 6 to 12 feet of water into coastal areas at high tide.
Isaac's journey from August 26 to today was caught by NOAA's GOES-13 satellite and put into video form by scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Look at this storm go:
The good news? The National Hurricane Center is reporting that Hurricane Isaac has a limited window in which to grow. According to this morning's forecast:
MID-LEVEL DRY AIR ENTRAINMENT CONTINUES TO PLAGUE ISAAC. AS SOON AS THE CYCLONE DEVELOPS INNER-CORE CONVECTION AND THE APPEARANCE OF AN EYE IN RADAR AND SATELLITE IMAGERY...THE CONVECTION ERODES DUE TO THE DRY AIR. DESPITE THE FAVORABLE OCEANIC CONDITIONS AND UPPER-LEVEL OUTFLOW REGIME...ISAAC ONLY HAS ABOUT 12-18 HOURS FOR FURTHER STRENGTHENING TO OCCUR.
And if it helps to think about, at least the Gulf isn't facing down a Typhoon Bolaven. That's the monster storm that recently brought 161 m.p.h winds to Okinawa and is said to have killed nine in South Korea. Here's Bolaven in an image taken by NASA's Terra satellite on August 26:
Top image of Hurricane Isaac taken at 12:15 p.m. EDT on August 28 by the GOES-13 satellite.