Nov. 19, 2020 – NASA Aids Disaster Response after Eta and Iota Hit Central America
With up to 155-mph winds, Hurricane Iota smashed record books on Nov. 16 as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in Nicaragua. Iota reached Category 5 strength before making landfall as a Category 4 storm near the town of Haulover, Nicaragua.
The onslaught of destructive winds and heavy rainfall was unfortunately familiar to a region that recently suffered another Category 4 landfalling storm – Hurricane Eta – just two weeks earlier. Eta was a Category 4 storm with 140-mph winds when it landed in Nicaragua on Nov. 3 before ripping a wide path of destruction through Honduras and Guatemala.
Heavy rainfall from these two storm systems brought widespread flooding to the region, triggered large and numerous landslides in Guatemala and Honduras, and was responsible for numerous casualties.
NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program supports disaster response and risk reduction efforts throughout the world — before, during, and after disasters strike – and is working to aid Central America with the impacts from these storms.
The interactive map above shows some highlights of key data products the Disasters Program is using. Specifically, the Program is sharing products such as those (and others in the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal) in frequent coordination meetings to help quantify flood and landslide risk in the region.
One example is the landslide detection maps from the Semi-Automatic Landslide Detection (SALaD) project, which use machine learning to analyze data from commercial Planet Labs satellites and the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. ESA Sentinel-2 data was also used to detect likely flooded areas at Honduras’ San Pedro Sula airport. The Program can take the landslide and flood detection data, then combine it with openly available population data and road maps, and deliver actionable guidance to local decision makers on where to best direct their response efforts.
Nov. 17, 2020 – Dangerous Hurricane Iota Sets Late-Season Records
Less than two weeks after being hit by category 4 Hurricane Eta, several Central American countries braced for the arrival of category 5 Hurricane Iota. NASA and NOAA covered the storm with an array of Earth-observing instruments.
Iota is the strongest hurricane and 30th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic season, the most since modern record keeping began (breaking the previous record of 28 set in 2005.) It also marked the first time that two hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic in any November. Iota is the 13th storm to reach hurricane strength this year; the average hurricane year brings six hurricanes.
On November 16 at 1 p.m. EDT, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued hurricane warnings for large portions of coastal Nicaragua and Honduras as the storm approached landfall. Iota had strengthened to a category 5 storm with sustained winds of 260 kilometers (160 miles) per hour.
Iota made landfall at 10:40 p.m. EDT as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph (250 kph) along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua near the town of Haulover, about 30 miles (45 km) south of Puerto Cabezas. Hurricane Iota’s landfall location was approximately 15 miles (25 km) south of where Category 4 Hurricane Eta made landfall on November 3.
Iota developed on Nov. 13 and strengthened to a hurricane two days later. Iota rapidly intensified in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Within a day and a half, Iota’s wind speeds increased by 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour.
Ocean temperatures must be near or above 27° Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit) to sustain a tropical cyclone. Using data from NASA’s Multiscale Ultrahigh Resolution Sea Surface Temperature (MUR SST) project, NASA created a temperature map that showed sea surfaces in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico at least that warm or warmer, which allowed for support and strengthening Hurricanes Iota and Eta. MUR incorporates temperature data from multiple NASA, NOAA, and international satellites, as well as ship and buoy observations.
Hurricane Eta (a Category 1) over Nicaragua on 11/4/2020 at approximately 5:25Z. This visualization focuses on the high precipitation southwest of Eta’s eye. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio
The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite flew over Hurricane Eta at 11:41 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Nov. 3 (0541 UTC Wednesday, Nov. 4). GPM observed the storm’s rainfall with its two unique science instruments: the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). As the visualization shows, the instruments observed a large swath of heavy precipitation extending to the north and east of the hurricane’s center, which matched earlier forecasts that called for particularly heavy rainfall across the storm’s path.
These two- and three-dimensional observations of precipitation structure are the hallmark of the GPM mission – managed jointly by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) — which aims improve our understanding of the water cycle and extreme weather events, and contributes to improved climate modeling and weather forecasting around the world.
These visualizations depict the GPM satellite pass about seven hours after Hurricane Eta made landfall on the coast of Nicaragua as a category 4 storm. Current NHC forecasts indicate Eta will move northwest over Central America then head northeast across the Caribbean Sea, threatening Cuba and Florida early next week.
Eta is the 28th named storm of 2020 which beats the 2005 record for the most named storms in a single hurricane season. (See 27 Storms: Arlene to Zeta for a summary of the 2005 hurricane season).