As Hurricane Rita entered the Gulf of Mexico, ESAs Envisat satellites radar was able to pierce through swirling clouds to directly show how the storm churns the sea surface. This image has then been used to derive Ritas wind field speeds.
Envisat acquired this Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) image at 0344 UTC on 22 September (2345 on 21 September in US Eastern Daylight Saving Time), when Hurricane Rita was passing west of Florida and Cuba. The image was acquired in Wide Swath Mode with resolution of 150 metres. Envisats optical Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) is also being used to observe the storm during daylight, returning details of its cloud structure and pressure.
Notably large waves are seen around the eye of Hurricane Rita in the radar image. ASAR measures the backscatter, which is a measure of the roughness of the ocean surface. On a basic level, bright areas of the radar image mean higher backscatter due to surface roughness. This roughness is strongly influenced by the local wind field so that the radar backscatter can be used in turn to measure the wind.
Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
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