Published: July 9,2017
NOAA's new GOES-16 satellite observed its first major hurricane on Sunday when Hurricane Eugene rapidly intensified into a Category 3 in the eastern Pacific Ocean well to the west of Mexico's Pacific coastline.
Major hurricanes are Category 3-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and in general, make for some of the most spectacular satellite imagery given their extreme intensity.
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Visible satellite image from GOES-16 showing Eugene at the moment it became a Category 3 on Sunday.GOES-16 has been in testing mode since the beginning of the year and has seen a number of storms both over the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific Oceans. Eugene is the second hurricane GOES-16 has observed thus far in its short existence. The other was Hurricane Dora which maxed out as a Category 2 to the west of the Mexico coast in late June.
Hurricane Eugene rapidly intensified from a tropical storm with 45 mph winds early Saturday morning into a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds by early Sunday. Rapid intensification is defined as a tropical cyclone that increases its maximum sustained winds by at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less.
The maximum sustained winds in Eugene increased further to 115 mph by late Sunday morning, making Eugene a Category 3 major hurricane. Eugene is the first tropical cyclone anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere in 2017 to have winds equivalent to a major hurricane.
This animation of colorized infrared satellite imagery shows Eugene as it rapidly intensified from a tropical storm on Saturday to the moment it became a major hurricane on Sunday.
Hurricane Eugene rapidly intensifies Saturday-Sunday.Rapid changes in intensity and smaller features that lead to changes in intensity are difficult to forecast because weather models have a hard time diagnosing those small-scale features in a hurricane's core that often lead to hurricane intensification.
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Models have improved in the last decade, but the addition of GOES-16 will help provide forecasters with more data in near real time to better determine intensity changes in hurricanes.
Eugene is no direct threat to land and will eventually dissipate later this week as it encounters cooler water temperatures.
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