As Hurricane Irene intensifies and moves up the U.S. coastline, rainfall amounts will vary from a few inches to almost 20" in some places. The heaviest rains are predicted to remain offshore, though current NOAA GFS weather models, shown here, indicate that the Outer Banks and coastal New England may bear the brunt of Irene’s rains in the U.S. [Data source: NOAA NCEP GFS 0600z model run on August 23, 2011, total precipitation accumulation through August 31 at 0600z]
The ability to make accurate predictions for heavy rainfall events, such as approaching hurricanes, days in advance is predicated upon high quality and frequent satellite observations of rain rate and total precipitable water, especially when storms are still offshore, outside the range of other sensors like radar. Polar-orbiting satellites, from the current NOAA-19, to the soon to be launched NPP, and the future JPSS, provide the majority of the data that drive NOAA’s weather models. Gaps in satellite data coverage will detrimentally affect NOAA’s ability to accurately estimate when, where, and how badly severe weather will impact the U.S.
For the latest satellite imagery and animations, please see our real-time imagery web page.