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You are here: GES DISC Home Hurricanes Additional Features Science Focus HURRICANE WILMA OCTOBER 15 - 25 2005


Hurricane Wilma track diagram

Figure 1.  Best Track analysis of extremely powerful Hurricane Wilma.1


Storm Status

Wind Speed

Green=Tropical Depression

<39 mph

Yellow=Tropical Storm

39-73 mph

Light Red=Category 1-2 Hurricane

74-110 mph

Dark Red=Category 3-5 Hurricane



Wilma was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin, with a minimum central pressure of 882 mb—the next strongest hurricane being the famed Category 5 Hurricane Gilbert with a minimum central pressure of 888 mb, and a maximum sustained surface wind speed of 185 mph.  Wilma devastated portions of the Yucatan Peninsula as a 150 mph Category 4 Hurricane, and went on to produce an estimated $12.2 billion in damages in the United States2.

Storm History

Around 14 October, a concentrated area of showers and thunderstorms in the northwestern Caribbean Sea began organizing while moving slowly westward.  During the afternoon of 15 October, the Hurricane Center designated this area of disturbed weather Tropical Depression Twenty-Four.  Just 36 hours later, a very large area of extremely cold cloud tops had developed (averaging less than -80 degrees C, with some tops as cold as -90 degrees C) around the center of circulation, and Wilma became the twenty-first named tropical system of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season, tying the previous record in 1933 for the most named storms in a single season.3

Wilma continued a gradual intensification, and during the mid-morning on 18 October, she was upgraded to a hurricane 200 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman Island4.  At around 5 PM EDT, Wilma began a period of phenomenal intensification over the northwestern Caribbean Sea, rarely seen in Atlantic tropical cyclones.  By 11 PM EDT that night, Wilma had developed a very small pinhole eye, and winds had responded by increasing to near 110 mph.  Minimum central pressure had also dropped from 970 mb to 954 mb in a period of three hours, equating to a drop in pressure roughly 5 mb/hr5

Early the next morning, Air Force Reconnaissance Aircraft reported Wilma had an incredibly tiny two nautical mile diameter eye—the smallest on record for an Atlantic hurricane.  As if that wasn’t enough, the central pressure had dropped to an astounding 884 mb.  At some points in her intensification phase, Wilma’s pressure dropped by nearly 10 mb/hr2!  Wilma reached her peak intensity early on 19 October, and impacted the Yucatan Peninsula as a 140 mph Category 4 Hurricane.

Wilma then began to move northeastward towards Florida, and made landfall just north of Everglades City at 6:30 AM EDT on 24 October.  After passing over Florida, Wilma began accelerating northeastward at over 40 mph, and eventually was classified as an extratropical storm south of Nova Scotia with 85 mph Surface winds6.


Data, Images and Animations

+Explore and analyze gridded data of the hurricane using the GES-DISC Interactive Online Visualization and Analysis Infrastructure (Giovanni)

+Use Mirador or WHOM to obtain data provided by the GES DISC DAAC for a hurricane event.

+View animations and images of Hurricane Wilma in the 2005 Past Hurricane Archive.


Wilma RGB
MODIS Terra RGB using the MOD02HKM product. This image is of the swath data from Oct 21 at 1630 hrs. More images like this and parameters animation created from other datasets can be seen in our Archive Image Gallery for hurricane Wilma .



1. Image courtesy of the NOAA coastal Services Center  Http://

2. Blake, Eric; Cobb, Hugh; Pasch, Richard; Roberts, David. “Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Wilma.” 12 January 2006. (10 July 2006).

3. Stewart, Stacy. “Tropical Storm Wilma Discussion Number 7.” 17 October 2005. (10 July 2006).

4. Franklin, James. “Hurricane Wilma Advisory Number 12.” 18 October 2005. (10 July 2006).

5. Beven, Jack. “Hurricane Wilma Discussion Number 14.” 18 October 2005. (10 July 2006).

6. Beven, Jack. “Hurricane Wilma Advisory Number 43.” 25 October 2005. (10 July 2006).

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Last updated: May 27, 2010 04:35 PM ET