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Cyclonic cycle: The life and death of a tropical depression near China

Enlarge Image credit: IMAGE COURTESY OF NASA/JPL, ED OLSEN MORE IMAGES

The Atlantic Ocean usually gets a lot of press this time of year thanks to its annual tropical cyclone season (17 depressions and seven hurricanes so far this year), which runs through November 30. But tropical cyclones have been nearly as active this year in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, particularly near China, a region that has seen 14 depressions (which did not quite make it to storm status) and three full-blown hurricanes.

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite recently revealed a concentrated area of thunderstorms and strong convection (purple) around the center of tropical depression 14W (TD14W) near China's Hainan Island, so named because it is the 14th depression to form in the western Pacific this year. TD14W's cloud-top temperatures were as cold as –51 degrees Celsius, as illustrated in the satellite image's purple areas, indicating strong thunderstorms, according to NASA.

TD14W's 55-kilometer-per-hour maximum sustained winds created 2.7-meter-high seas. Fortunately, a wind shear (winds that buffet a storm and push it apart) blowing at 45 kph against TD14W kept its storms from stacking up to create a stronger punch. The tropical depression is expected to make a brief landfall on the mainland of southern China, after which it is predicted to head toward the eastern end of Hainan Island and dissipate.

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