A Closer Look at Hurricane Dorian (author: Madeline Scheinost)

Hurricane Dorian made history earlier this week as one of the most intense Atlantic basin hurricanes on record. In fact, it was the second strongest storm by wind speeds since 1950 in the Atlantic Basin. Dorian also made history as the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Bahamas. The hurricane caused mass destruction to the Bahamas, striking the islands as a strong category 5 hurricane, and with winds peaking at 185 mph. The hurricane moved slowly over the region, contributing to major flooding on the islands. From 12am 2 September 2019 to 6am local time 3 September 2019, Dorian moved just 33 miles in 30 hours. A satellite image from ICEYE taken 2 September shows the extent of the flooding that occurred on Grand Bahama.

Grand Bahama satellite image depicting flooding. The yellow-green outline is the islands original coastline before Dorian. Taken 2 September 2019.


Satellites play a key role in tracking hurricane development, as it’s hard to get radar imaging of hurricanes when they are over the open ocean. We can track Dorian as it makes its way along the eastern seaboard of the United States using GOES satellites. The GOES-16 visible imagery of Dorian shows just how massive the system has become. Satellite imagery is also useful in understanding eyewall replacement throughout a hurricanes lifespan. This is often tracked using a combination of visible satellite imagery and infrared imagery. The GOES-16 infrared imagery is also helpful to understand the convection within the storm. Red and black hues on the color bar indicate lower temperatures and therefore higher cloud tops. This can help us determine if the hurricane is dissipating or strengthening. If there are lower temperatures developing within the storm, we can assume the hurricane is growing as cloud tops are developing at higher levels in the atmosphere.

GOES-16 visible satellite imagery of United States east coast, featuring Hurricane Dorian. Taken at 1621 Z 4 September 2019


GOES-16 IR Longwave IR imagery. Taken at 16:26Z 4 September 2019.


^ infrared and visible satellite
^ satellite pic of Grand Bahama showing flooding