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Cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons

Cyclones are among the most frequently occurring natural disasters in warm seas.

Every year they cause considerable devastation.They are essentially marine monsters, requiring a large expanse of warm water at least 26°C in temperature and 50 m in depth, before they can develop.  Over land they lose their strength and peter out, but not before causing some damage.  Such phenomena must be monitored closely in order to be able to alert the populations involved.  Nothing is better-suited to this than satellites, with their birds-eye view. Wind speed at the sea surface, clouds, wave height, precipitation and ocean surface temperature, can all be measured by their instruments.

Because heat in the ocean plays a major role in the formation and intensification of cyclones, eddies and warm and cold currents may modify a cyclone's trajectory and intensity.  Altimetry contributes to cyclone forecasting as it improves our understanding of  ocean circulation.  Moreover, altimetry data on wave heights and wind speeds are used in wave forecasting models.

Trajectory and intensity of Hurricane Katrina (August 2005) and sea-surface heights as measured by altimetry: the hurricane increased in strength when it passed over the warm current found in the Gulf of Mexico (Credits Noaa/AOML).

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