The relatively placid view from the International Space Station
belied the potent forces at work in Hurricane Earl as it hovered over
the tropical Atlantic Ocean on August 30. With maximum sustained winds
of 135 miles (215 kilometers) per hour, the storm was classified as a
category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale as it passed north of the Virgin Islands.
In this photograph captured with a digital SLR camera by NASA
astronaut Douglas Wheelock, Earl had a distinct eye that spanned about
17 miles (28 kilometers). Most of the storm had a seemingly uniform top,
though the bottom edge of the image gives some sense of the towering
thunderheads forming over the ocean. The solar panels of the ISS remind
us that the sun is still shining, at least on ISS Expedition 24.
Around the time of the photograph on August 30, the National
Hurricane Center reported that Earl was centered near latitude 19.3
degrees North, longitude 64.7 degrees West, about 110 miles (180
kilometers) northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The storm was moving
west-northwest at 15 miles (24 km) per hour.
On the same day, scientists participating in NASA's Genesis and Rapid
Intensification Processes field campaign snapped their own photos of
the storm, which you can see here.