Volume: 04, Issue: 01 09/07/2005 
All roads leading in and out of Biloxi, Miss. were destroyed or under water. When the water subsided, Highway 110 remained as the sole route in and out of the city. Image courtesy Gene Dailey/American Red Cross.
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Across the bay are collapsed casinos in Biloxi, Miss. Image courtesy Gene Dailey/American Red Cross.
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An shelter for evacuees has been set up at the Houston Astrodome. Image courtesy Daniel Cima/American Red Cross.
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The top image from Digital Globe’s Quickbird satellite shows the flooding that resulted from the failure of the levee near the 17th Street Canal. The bottom shows New Orleans before the storm. Images copyright Digital Globe.
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Hurricane Katrina turned slightly eastward before slamming into shore. Image courtesy NASA/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Hurricane Katrina Strikes NASA Facilities
Cassini Discovers Enceladus Tiger Stripes are Cubs
Mars Mission Successes Delight Scientists
NSTA Online Resources Help Students Understand Hurricanes

Science Resources Aid Hurricane Katrina Response

Hurricane Katrina roared ashore on the Gulf coast in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005. With winds tearing into the area at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour, the hurricane was one of the worst natural disasters in American history. As the affected region continues the grueling cleanup process, science instruments and satellites are helping characterize the extent of flooding; damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure; and potential health and safety hazards caused by the storm and its aftermath.

“This hurricane has caused catastrophic devastation across areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama,” said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “FEMA, along with our federal, state, and local partners, is working around the clock to get life-saving assistance into the hardest hit areas. We need everyone’s cooperation to keep passable roads clear and to prevent those returning from placing additional burdens on the limited shelter, food and water in the heavily impacted areas.”

Several government, academic, and private agencies are working to ensure the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have the best available information to aid in responding to this tragic event. NASA's Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Light Detection and Ranging system is one tool being used to survey the Gulf coastline. The aircraft system, carried on a Cessna 310, surveyed the northern Gulf coastline and the New Orleans perimeter and surrounding levee to assist in damage assessment. While making its observations of the land, the system "sees" through vegetation, including trees and shrubs, to view the land underneath. Near the coast it can map the beach surface under water. This will help in the recovery of the shoreline infrastructure and aid in determining hazard areas and environmental loss.

In addition to aircraft, the Terra, Aqua, and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellites have provided Earth observations for land cover and rainfall. Terra's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer is providing data on the magnitude and extent of damage and flooding to the U.S. Geological Survey Emergency Response Team through its Earth Resources Observation Systems Data Center. NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument on the Terra and Aqua satellites provided images of flooding, including pre- and post-disaster comparisons. Data from JPL’s QuikScat satellite was one source of wind observations used by NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division to analyze the wind field of the storm and to track its path.

Another NASA satellite in use is the Earth Observing Mission 1. The Advanced Land Imagery multispectral instrument on this satellite provided land use and land cover observations useful in determining hurricane damage areas and in aiding in recovery, response, and mitigation.

Besides monitoring the damage of Katrina, satellites and other scientific devices are monitoring the still active Atlantic hurricane season. At the beginning of August, NOAA adjusted its 2005 hurricane season outlook to include an additional 11 to 14 tropical storms from August through November. Seven to nine were expected to become hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes (of which Katrina was one).

"The tropics are only going to get busier as we enter the peak of the season," said NOAA National Weather Service director Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson. "This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, and will be the ninth above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the last eleven years."

"Although we have already seen a record-setting seven tropical storms during June and July, much of the season's activity is still to come," said Gerry Bell, lead meteorologist on NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Seasonal Outlook.

Atmospheric and oceanic conditions that favor an active hurricane season are now in place, as was predicted in the pre-season outlook. The sea-surface temperature is above normal, and low wind shear adds to the problem.

This confluence of optimal ocean and atmosphere conditions has been known to produce increased tropical storm activity in multi-decadal (approximately 20-30 year) cycles. Because of this, NOAA expects a continuation of above-normal seasons for another decade or perhaps longer. NOAA's research shows that this reoccurring cycle is the dominant climate factor that controls Atlantic hurricane activity. Any potentially weak signal associated with longer-term climate change appears to be a minor factor.

NOAA meteorologists use a suite of sophisticated numerical models and high-tech tools to forecast tropical storms and hurricanes. Scientists rely on information gathered by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Reserve personnel who fly directly into storms in hurricane hunter aircraft; NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense satellites; NOAA data buoys, weather radars and partners among the international meteorological services.

For satellite images and additional information regarding Hurricane Katrina, please visit the following websites:

Information about health concerns, finding missing loved ones, donating to hurricane relief, or volunteering in affected areas is available by accessing the following sites:

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