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Satellite offers high-tech, bird's-eye view of monster storm

Ever wonder what it looks like to fly above a typhoon?

An animated video from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission's Core Observatory demonstrates the scores of thunderstorms that made up Typhoon Hagupit. The red shaded area represent the highest rates of rainfall - up to 50 mm (almost 2 inches) per hour. A slicing plane moves across the volume to display precipitation rates throughout the storm. It also shows cloud heights which reached reached more than 9 miles high.

Typhoon Hagupit, which weakened into a tropical storm earlier this week, left at least 21 people dead in the Philippines and forced more than a million people into shelters.

It spared most of a central Philippine region still haunted by last year's monster storm, Typhoon Haiyan. The strongest typhoon on record to hit land, Haiyan's tsunami-like storm surges, leveled entire villages and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in November of last year.

The GPM Core Observatory, a joint effort between NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, carries two instruments that show the location and intensity of rain and snow, which defines a crucial part of the storm structure. The GPM Microwave Imager sees through the tops of clouds to observe how much and where precipitation occurs, and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar observes precise details of precipitation in 3-dimensions.

For forecasters, GPM's microwave and radar data are part of the toolbox of satellite data, including other low Earth orbit and geostationary satellites, that they use to monitor tropical cyclones and hurricanes.

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