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Hurricane Marie: The Life and Death of a Tropical Giant

Aug 28, 2014 04:41 PM EDT

Hurricane Marie has finally begun to spin down, weakening from hurricane status to a tropical storm this Thursday morning. Interestingly, NASA and NOAA satellites show that Marie is a fighter, still producing new rising air and thunderstorms to keep it spinning.

According to NASA, Marie initially formed on Mexico's southwestern coast exactly a week ago, consolidating into a tropical depression simply called 13-E.

Tropical depressions form when atmospheric churning brings a group of thunderstorms together. Conflicting pressures eventually become organized and direct inward, whipping up elevated winds towards a depression's center. By the time these winds approach 35 to 64 knots (39-73 mph), the formation has started to rotate, becoming a tropical storm - a significant threat for heavy rainfall and extended lightning storms.

And that's what happened in the case of 13-E, quickly earning itself the name Marie. By Aug. 24, NASA's Aqua satellite witnessed Marie start to grow in size and strength, absorbing independent storm cells in its wake and extending its spiraling band of thunderstorms.

Forecaster John Cangialosi of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted that by Aug. 25, Marie has developed "an impressive concentric eyewall structure" stretching up to 50 nautical miles from its center.

Tropical storms don't necessarily have to be huge to become hurricanes. They simply have to start whipping up winds at about 75 mph even at its furthest points. In Marie's case, the storm became both gigantic and dangerous, being 400 miles in diameter and boasting wind speeds approaching 135 mph.

Marie rarely made landfall during this dangerous peak. However, Soccorro Island in the Eastern Pacific found itself directly in the storm's path. The island, home to a mere 45 people, including a small US naval base, was pounded with hurricane-force winds and highly dangerous surf. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.

In the wake of this island strike, Marie joined up in a train of tropical storms, contributing to incredibly dangerous riptides along the Californian coast last weekend.

Starting to spin down, Marie is still fighting to stay alive. No longer classified as a hurricane, the massive storm is still feeding off smaller tropical storm Karina, which found an early death after being affected by the other members of its train.

The NHC expects Marie to become post-tropical by tonight, but the life-threatening surf and riptides produced by the sheer size of the storm will persist into Friday.

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