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Strong Thunderstorms Fueling Hurricane Adrian

A 3-D view of Hurricane Adrian in the Pacific Ocean taken by the GOES East on June 9. (Image credit: NOAA)

The first hurricane of the season, churning off the Pacific coast of Mexico, has all the ingredients to keep going strong, NASA satellite observations show.

Strong thunderstorms are the life's blood of tropical cyclones (the collective name for tropical storms and hurricanes), and infrared and radar satellite data from NASA confirms that the eastern Pacific Ocean's first hurricane has plenty of them and they're over 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) high.

NASA's Aqua satellite flew over Hurricane Adrian yesterday morning (June 9) at 1:59 a.m. EDT (8:29 GMT), and its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument took an infrared snapshot of the storm's many strong thunderstorms and warm ocean water below. [Related: How Are Hurricanes Named?]

The infrared and other data shows that Adrian has a well-defined eye, the roughly circular, calmer area at the center of a storm that typically forms when a storm is well-developed. The data also show the cold, high cloud tops (colored red in the satellite images) that correspond to the strong thunderstorms in the hurricane.

This 3-D image of Major Hurricane Adrian was created from data on June 9 and show thunderstorms dropping rain at a rate of over 50 mm/hr (~2 inches) in a nearly circular eye wall. The PR also indicated that some thunderstorms in the eye wall were shooting up to heights above 15 km (~9.3 miles). (Image credit: NASA/SSAI: Hal Pierce)

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured rainfall and cloud data from Hurricane Adrian when it passed directly above on June 9 at 3:14 a.m. EDT (0714 GMT). The increasingly powerful hurricane had sustained winds estimated to be close to 92 mph (148 kph) at the time of this pass. TRMM's Precipitation Radar (PR) instrument revealed that beneath the clouds there were intense thunderstorms dropping rain at a rate of over 2 inches (50 mm) per hour in a nearly circular eye wall.

As of 5 a.m. EDT today (June 10), Adrian had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph), making it a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength.

Adrian is the first hurricane for the eastern Pacific this season. The Atlantic basin (including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea) has set to see a tropical storm or hurricane this year. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.

Hurricane Adrian's strength and proximity to land means that Southwestern Mexico's coastline will continue to get large swells and rip currents through the early part of the weekend. Adrian is expected to enter cooler waters by the early weekend which will sap some of his strength. The National Hurricane Center forecasts Adrian to continue moving out to sea and away from land.