Orbiting above the earth at a height of more than two hundred miles, the astronauts on board the International Space Station have been sending images of super typhoon Maysak in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristiforetti and NASA astronaut Terry Virts tweeted pictures of the circular storm swirling around a deep central vortex.
And Virts has filmed the eye of the hurricane, surrounded by rings of thunderstorms. The video is posted on the ISS Facebook page.
Christoforetti tweeted: “Commands respect even from #space: we just flew over typhoon #Maysak. pic.twitter.com/w86GnxmaO2”
Virts posted pictures and video of the storm, saying “Looking down into the eye – by far the widest one I’ve seen. It seemed like a black hole from a Sci-Fi movie #Maysak pic.twitter.com/hmdBStaY6r”
Data from weather satellites Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) show thunderstorms and rainfall more than 2inches per hour in the heaviest parts of the storm. The satellites recorded sustained winds of 98 mph. The storm is moving west-northwest towards Luzon in the central Philippines. It is said to be weakening.
The intensity of the images give some clue to the destruction the storm has already caused on earth. It touched down in Micronesia and left a wide swathe of destruction in its wake, killing five people and destroying crops and hundreds of homes. A state of emergency has been declared and there are fears that the water supply has been contaminated.
The unusually strong typhoon is the third to develop even before the hurricane season officially started on April 1. At peak strength, it was a category 5 hurricane, with winds of 160 mph, gusting to 195 mph.
According to Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground, it has already broken two records: “According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) database, 2015 is now the only season since records began in 1945 to feature three typhoons during the first three months of the year (January, February, and March), and also the first season to have two major typhoons (Category 3 or stronger) during the first three months of the year.”
It is expected to reach the Philippines some time over the weekend. No warnings have been posted yet for the Philippines, but residents are bracing for heavy rainfall and potential flooding.