A NASA satellite saw icy cold cloud top temperatures today (Jan. 24) in the low pressure area called System 97S, which is forming off the coast of Western Australia, indicating that the developing storm is packing some power.
When NASA's Aqua satellite flew overhead, 97S was located about 340 miles (547 kilometers) north-northwest of Learmonth, Western Australia. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) noted that "formation of a significant tropical cyclone is possible within 155 nautical miles (178.4 miles/287 km) either side of a line from 16.6 (South) 112.7 (East) to 17.4 (South) and 107.3 (East) within the next 12 to 24 hours."
Aqua's instruments indicated that thunderstorm cloud tops around the entire center of circulation and in some of the bands of thunderstorms that circled the center from northwest to northeast were colder than -63 Fahrenheit (-52.7 Celsius). Those cold temperatures represent strong uplift, hinting System 97S could develop into a tropical depression in the next day or two.
JWTC forecasters noted that the current data on System 97S doesn't justify issuing a tropical depression number yet, but sustained winds are estimated between 32 to 37 mph (52 to 59.6 kph) and just near depression status.
Some good news for Australians pummeled by Tropical Storm Heidi earlier thsi month though: System 97S is moving west-southwest at 24 mph (39 kph) away from land.