Tropical Cyclone Rusty (South Indian Ocean)

Cyclone Rusty’s Heavy Rainfall Summed By NASA Satellite

Cyclone Rusty made landfall on Western Australia’s Pilbara coast on Feb. 27 and dropped heavy rainfall over a large area. NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite measured that rainfall from space and a rainfall map was created that showed Rusty’s wide effects.

Tropical Cyclone Rusty made landfall along the Pilbara coast at 0900 UTC (4 a.m. EST/U.S. and 5 p.m. WST local time) on Feb. 27, about 68.3 miles (110 kilometers) east-northeast of Port Hedland. After crossing the coast, Tropical Cyclone Rusty moved south and inland over the eastern Pilbara.

In addition to high winds, tropical cyclone Rusty’s heavy rainfall caused flooding in north-western Australia.


The TRMM satellite’s main purpose is the accurate measurement of tropical rainfall around the globe. TRMM is also used to calibrate rainfall estimates from other satellites. The TRMM-based, near-real time Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) conducted at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. provides estimates of rainfall over the global tropics.

TMPA rainfall totals in association with tropical cyclone Rusty for the period from February 21 to 28, 2013 were calculated and made into a rainfall map at Goddard.

The analysis indicated that the heaviest rainfall of close to 600mm (~23.6 inches) fell in the Indian Ocean off the Australian Coast. Rainfall totals of over 500mm (~19.7 inches) were also seen along the coastal area where Rusty made landfall. The NASA analysis showed that Rusty also spread rainfall totaling over 50mm (~2 inches) far inland from the center of tropical cyclone’s circulation.

Pavlof Volcano, Alaska Peninsula

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed these striking views of Pavlof Volcano on May 18, 2013. The oblique perspective from the ISS reveals the three dimensional structure of the ash plume, which is often obscured by the top-down view of most remote sensing satellites.



Situated in the Aleutian Arc about 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) high. When photograph ISS036-E-2105 (top) was taken, the space station was about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano (49.1° North latitude, 157.4° West longitude). The volcanic plume extended southeastward over the North Pacific Ocean.

Burning Fields in Eastern Russia

April usually brings a sharp increase in fire activity throughout eastern Russia, as farmers begin to prep their fields for the coming season. This year is no exception.


Numerous fires were burning when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the Amur region near the Selemdzha River. Fields and grasslands appear brown, and red outlines mark the locations of actively burning fires. Two large smoke plumes, as well as a patchwork of darker burns scars, are also visible. Aqua acquired the image on April 29, 2013.

Many of the fires appear to be burning on farmland and were likely started by farmers. The Amur and Selemdzha river valleys are known as some of the most productive agricultural regions in Russia. Farmers in the area usually grow grain and soybeans while raising cattle, pigs, and poultry. Growers often burn debris from the previous year’s crop before replanting in order to clear the land and fertilize the soil.

Russian authorities discourage farmers from burning their fields, but each spring satellites detect large numbers of agricultural fires. Scientists can use satellites to distinguish between agricultural burning and wildfires because agricultural fires tend not to be as bright or as long-lasting.

In one study based on MODIS measurements, scientists tallied the global distribution of agriculture fires and found that between 18 and 29 percent of the fires in central Asia were agricultural in origin. Researchers also found that Russia was responsible for 31 to 36 percent of the world’s agricultural fires—more than any other country.

Earthquake in Southeastern Iran

The ongoing collision of two enormous slabs of the Earth’s lithosphere —the Arabian and Eurasian plates—caused a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in southeastern Iran on April 16, 2013. The quake was the largest to hit Iran in more than 50 years. Its epicenter was about 83 kilometers (52 miles) east of Khash, a city with a population of more than 70,000.

Earth’s lithosphere is broken into giant plates that cover the surface of the planet like pieces of a puzzle. Individual plates constantly collide and grind against one another as they slide on top of a somewhat fluid layer of the Earth’s interior known as the asthenosphere causing earthquakes in the process.

The Arabian plate is sliding north-northeast at a speed of about 37 millimeters (1.5 inches) per year relative to the larger Eurasian plate. Where the two plates collide in an area known as the Makran subduction zone the Arabian plate plunges beneath the larger Eurasian plate. As it descends into the mantle where it will eventually melt, earthquakes occur deep beneath the surface, along the boundary between the two plates.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake was the result of faulting at an intermediate depth in the Arabian plate lithosphere, approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) beneath Earth’s surface. The descending Arabian plate has caused quakes as deep as 160 kilometers (100 miles) beneath the surface in this area in the past, though most have been at much shallower depths.

This image, based on elevation data acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the area where the earthquake occurred. Land is shown with shades of green and beige. Higher elevations are lighter in color.

Tropical Cyclone Zane

Zane formed as a tropical storm over the southwestern Pacific Ocean on April 30, 2013, and strengthened into a cyclone the same day. The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that the storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 knots (110 kilometers per hour) and gusts up to 75 knots (140 kilometers per hour). The storm was expected to pass over northeastern Australia and the Gulf of Carpentaria between May 1 and 3.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on April 30, 2013. Zane hovered over the Coral Sea between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

The JTWC forecast that as Zane traveled westward, it would gain strength, reaching sustained wind speeds of 85 knots (160 kilometers per hour) and gusts of 105 knots (195 kilometers per hour) around May 1. Afterwards, wind speeds were expected to drop.