Tropical Cyclone Vaianu
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Tropical Cyclone Vaianu

April 26, 2013
Tropical Cyclone Vaianu was moving south of the Tonga Islands on February 15, 2006, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite captured this image at 1:35 UTC (1:35 p.m. local time). At this time, Vaianu was heading south past the chain of islands, having knocked out electricity in many areas in the preceeding two days, as well as flattening trees and crops. Flooding in low-lying areas shut down the Tonga capital, Nuku'alofa, for two days. When Aqua observed the cyclone, it had peak sustained winds of around 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour), and it was gradually losing strength. Although it was weakening, it maintained a distinct, spiral cloud structure. The only island visible is this image is Tongatapu, in the northwestern (upper left) corner, just at the end of a spiral-cloud arm. Most of the island is under thin cloud cover, but the pale blue of shallow water and coral reefs stand out from the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean around them. Tongatapu is the largest island in the Tonga Island chain, and the Tonga capital, Nuku’alofa is on this island. Credit: NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.

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