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Satellite images show Typhoon Amphan's landfall in India, Bangladesh

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this view of Typhoon Amphan on May 20, 2020 at 1 p.m. India Standard Time (0730 GMT). (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens/MODIS/NASA EOSDIS/LANCE/GIBS/Worldview)

Satellites are keeping a careful watch on Typhoon Amphan during and after landfall near eastern India and Bangladesh Wednesday (May 20).

An instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite took a natural-color image of the storm covering the region as winds reached a category 2 scale, with speeds of 105 miles (165 kilometers) per hour. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) showed the storm as it delivered a dangerous surge to coastal regions.

"Winds decreased as Amphan moved north-northeast over land, but the storm remained powerful enough to destroy buildings, uproot trees and crops, and down powerlines," NASA's Earth Observatory said in an accompanying statement. 

Related: NASA's Earth observing system: Monitoring the planet's climate

On May 20, 2020 at 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT), the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite found coldest cloud top temperatures (yellow) in a large area around Amphan's center of circulation and along the coast of northeast India. It was as cold as or colder than minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62.2 Celsius). (Image credit: NASA/NRL)

"The winds pushed up a 5-meter (16-foot) storm surge that flooded coastal areas, including the Sundarbans, an area of mangrove forests and critical tiger habitat in the delta spanning the India-Bangladesh border," NASA officials said in the statement.

MODIS has also provided infrared imagery showing cloud top temperatures of the tropical storm. The advantage of infrared data is, in a tropical storm that can span thousands of miles, the data shows where the strongest regional thunderstorms are located. 

The strongest thunderstorms, NASA added, have the coldest cloud top temperatures because these storms push high into the troposphere, or region of Earth's atmosphere that is closest to the planet's surface.

The Suomi NPP satellite provided this visible-light image of Typhoon Amphan headed toward landfall near the border of eastern India and Bangladesh on May 20, 2020. (Image credit: NASA Worldview/EOSDIS)

The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, which is administered by NASA and NOAA, showed visible light imagery of Amphan on Tuesday (May 19), when the storm covered the northern part of the Bay of Bengal. The bay is in the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by India to the west, Bangladesh to the north, and Myanmar to the east.

"Tropical cyclones and hurricanes are the most powerful weather events on Earth," NASA said in a separate statement. "NASA researches these storms to determine how they rapidly intensify, develop and behave. NASA's expertise in space and scientific exploration contributes to essential services provided to the American people by other federal agencies, such as hurricane weather forecasting," the statement added.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.