NASA Images of Hurricanes From Space

NOAA-NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of Hurricane Dorian on Aug. 30, 2019, as it was just north of Turks and Caicos and heading toward the Bahamas. NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)

Hurricane season is under way, and thanks to many eyes in the sky, we now have views of these storms that past generations could only imagine. NASA offers several valuable viewpoints to study hurricanes, whether from 22,000-mile-high satellites or the International Space Station, which orbits about 250 miles overhead.

Here's a look at some of the space agency's best shots of tropical cyclones:

Hurricane Dorian (2019)

Hurricane Dorian from the ISS
NASA astronaut Christian Koch snapped this image of Hurricane Dorian from the International Space Station on Sept. 2. Christian Koch/NASA

Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas in late August and early September, was captured in this photo on Sept. 2 from the International Space Station. The storm led to widespread damage and at least five deaths in the Bahamas as of Sept. 3, largely due to heavy flooding as the storm lingered in place. It's expected to continue northward along the U.S. coast in coming days.

Hurricane Florence (2018)

Hurricane Florence churning over the Atlantic, as captured by astronauts on the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA)

"Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It's chilling, even from space," said European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, who was living and working aboard the International Space Station in 2018.

A high-definition video camera outside the space station captured images of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm at the time. The video was taken Sept. 11, 2018, as Florence crossed the Atlantic with winds of 130 mph. The hurricane went on to cause heavy flooding and severe damage in the Carolinas.

Hurricane Harvey (2017)

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photo of Hurricane Harvey from the ISS
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photo of Hurricane Harvey from the ISS. NASA

Harvey was the first major hurricane of the 2017 hurricane season, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since Wilma in 2005. Harvey resulted in significant flooding in the Houston, Texas, area.

Lifespan: Aug. 17, 2017 - Sept. 2, 2017

Max. wind speed: 130 mph (Category 4)

Hurricane Irene (2011)

Hurricane Irene seen from the ISS
Astronaut Ron Garan snapped this image of Hurricane Irene from the International Space Station as the storm passed over the Caribbean on Aug. 22, 2011. NASA [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Irene made multiple landfalls as a hurricane and as a tropical storm in the Caribbean and along the East Coast of the United States. It traveled from St. Croix all the way up to Brooklyn in New York City, where it caused considerable flooding.

Lifespan: Aug. 21-30, 2011

Max. wind speed: 120 mph (Category 3)

Hurricane Bill (2009)

hurricane bill from space

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season had been quiet — thanks largely to El Niño — until it lurched awake in August. Tropical storms Ana, Bill and Claudette all formed within five days of each other, and Bill became a deadly Category 4. After a few weeks of spitting out weak storms, however, the Atlantic remained mostly calm in '09 while typhoons plagued the Pacific.

Lifespan: Aug. 15-26, 2009

Max. wind speed: 130 mph (Category 4)

Hurricane Ivan (2004)

Hurricane Ivan from space

Hurricane Ivan was a powerful, long-lived cyclone that made two U.S. landfalls and reached Category 5 strength three times. This image was shot from the International Space Station as Ivan spun toward Gulf Shores, Ala., where storm surges swelled to 16 feet. Ivan also dumped 15 inches of rain in some places and spawned 23 tornadoes in Florida alone.

Lifespan: Sept. 2-24, 2004

Max. wind speed: 165 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Frances (2004)

Hurricane Frances

Hurricane Frances battered the Bahamas on Sept. 1, 2004, caught in the act here by NASA's SeaWiFS satellite. The storm then moved on toward central Florida, just three weeks after Hurricane Charley had already ravaged the area — and three weeks before Hurricane Jeanne would ravage it again.

Lifespan: Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2004

Max. wind speed: 140 mph (Category 4)

Hurricane Isabel (2003)

Hurricane Isabel

Seen here three days before striking North Carolina's Outer Banks, Hurricane Isabel was the strongest, costliest and deadliest storm of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. Its well-defined eye was nearly 50 miles wide when this photo was taken from aboard the space station Sept. 15, 2003.

Lifespan: Sept. 6-20, 2003

Max. wind speed: 165 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Emily (2005)

Hurricane Emily

As they orbited high above the Gulf of Mexico on July 16, 2005, the space-station crew spotted this moonrise staring down into the eye of Hurricane Emily, a growing Category 4 storm at the time. It was a Category 5 the next day, eventually becoming the strongest known Atlantic hurricane to ever form in July.

Lifespan: July 10-21, 2005

Max. wind speed: 160 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina's economic, ecological and emotional toll can still be felt years after it devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities. This overhead view was captured by NASA's GOES-12 weather satellite on Aug. 28, 2005 — the day before Katrina became the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history.

Lifespan: Aug. 23-30, 2005

Max. wind speed: 175 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Gordon (2006)

Hurricane Gordon

An astronaut aboard the space shuttle Atlantis shot this photo of Hurricane Gordon on Sept. 15, 2006, using a 35mm digital camera. Gordon was one of three consecutive cyclones in 2006 (along with Florence and Helene) that avoided landfall in North America by swooping northeast toward the British Isles.

Lifespan: Sept. 11-21, 2006

Max. wind speed: 121 mph (Category 3)

Hurricane Wilma (2005)

Hurricane Wilma

This portrait of Hurricane Wilma's eye and cloud deck was taken by a space-station crew member 220 miles overhead on Oct. 19, 2005. Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, with a record low pressure of 882 millibars, and was the third Category 5 storm during the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season.

Lifespan: Oct. 15-26, 2005

Max. wind speed: 175 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Ophelia (2005)

Hurricane Ophelia

Hurricane Ophelia, framed here by a window on the space station, was the 15th named storm and eighth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season. It fluctuated wildly in strength and speed, with its eye growing wider than 100 miles across at one point. The eye never made landfall, but Ophelia skirted close enough to the U.S. coast to cause $70 million in damage.

Lifespan: Sept. 6-17, 2005

Max. wind speed: 85 mph (Category 1)

Hurricane Andrew (1992)

Hurricane Andrew

This panoramic image, courtesy of NASA's GOES-7 satellite, shows the Earth on Aug. 25, 1992, when Hurricane Andrew had just carved its infamous path through South Florida and was headed for more in Louisiana. Andrew was one of only two Category 5 storms to form in the 1990s, and remains the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, following Katrina.

Lifespan: Aug. 16-28, 1992

Max. wind speed: 175 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Jeanne (2004)

Hurricane Jeanne

The 2.8 million Floridians who evacuated Hurricane Frances in 2004 didn't have much time to regroup before Hurricane Jeanne came knocking. When this image was shot from the space station on Sept. 25, 2004, Jeanne's 60-mile-wide eye was about six hours away from making landfall near Stuart, Fla. — almost exactly the same place Frances had hit three weeks earlier.

Lifespan: Sept. 13-27, 2004

Max. wind speed: 120 mph (Category 3)

1943 'Surprise' Hurricane

Hurricane surprise of 1943

No, this photo wasn't taken from a satellite, but it nonetheless highlights the importance of NASA's eyes in the sky. The "surprise" hurricane of 1943 was only a Category 1 storm, but it devastated the Texas coast because people weren't prepared. There were no weather satellites in 1943, and ships' radio signals had been silenced due to U.S. concerns about German U-boats invading the Gulf of Mexico — so there was little warning.

Lifespan: July 25-28, 1943

Max. wind speed: 86 mph (Category 1)