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Satellite Spies Texas Tornado Storms in 3-D

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The 3-D profile reveals heavy precipitation. (Image credit: NASA. )

A satellite that can measure thunderclouds and rain in three dimensions spied a lot of action over northeastern Texas during the period of violent storms that produced 14 confirmed tornadoes Tuesday (April 3).

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite takes data on cloud height and rainfall rates, two indicators of a storm's severity.

The TRMM satellite recorded severe thunderstorms more than 8 miles (13 kilometers) high Tuesday.

These images, which were captured around 8:30 p.m. local time, show a line of severe thunderstorms stretching from northeast Texas to Arkansas.

The 3-D images show the rate of precipitation produced by the storm clouds: The red areas are spots where the storms dropped 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain per hour.

In some places, the severe storms pelted the ground with hailstones the size of softballs.

The National Weather Service initially received reports of 18 tornadoes, but the agency has now confirmed that 14 tornadoes touched down on Tuesday, ranging in strength from an EF-0 tornado on the tornado damage scale, which typically does negligible damage, to an EF-3 tornado packing winds of 150 mph (240 kph).

A storm chaser caught that EF-3 tornado on film near the town of Forney, which sustained severe damage. The images show a powerful twister black with debris, ripping power lines from the ground that send off bright flashes of electricity.

The spate of tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes and tossed semi-trailers in the air, but no one was reported killed.  

Researchers use the TRMM satellite to construct vertical profiles of storms, from tornadoes to powerful hurricanes.

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