Shocking extent of Hurricane Harvey rainfall shown by NASA satellites

30 Aug 2017

Hurricane Harvey hitting the shore of Kemah, Texas. Image: Eric V Overton/Shutterstock

The coasts of Texas and Louisiana have been battered by Hurricane Harvey, and NASA’s satellites have provided an obstructed, terrifying view.

At the time of writing, 18 people have died as direct result of Hurricane Harvey, a storm that has battered and flooded the coastal areas of Texas, and now is beginning to move into neighbouring Louisiana.

While the storm might have passed the city of Houston, the scenes of torrential downpours and serious flooding have spread on social media, showing a city almost unrecognisable from just a week ago.

NASA and its orbiting satellites have been used to obtain scientific data on the storm, including exactly how much rain has fallen on the region.

The Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals for GPM data compiled between 23 and 29 August showed that during this time, nearly 800mm of rain fell on the Houston metro area and part of the western Gulf of Mexico. As much as 1,000mm fell over south-eastern Texas during the same period.

According to the US National Weather Service, one location recorded almost 1,270mm of rainfall, which would make it the largest quantity of water measured since records began in the state, breaking the previous record set in 1979.

To put this into perspective, NASA released a video charting the rainfall in the area, with the colours becoming noticeably darker as it moves inland.

Another map shows the storm forming just over a week ago, with signs of heavy cyclonic circulation in the infrared clouds.

But perhaps the most dramatic glimpse of the storm has come from the crew aboard the International Space Station, where astronaut Jack Fischer photographed Harvey in stunning detail.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic