What would it look like to follow a monster hurricane as it develops? A new visualisation created by Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois shows the dramatic evolution of hurricane Katrina, the storm that wreaked havoc along the east coast of the US in August 2005. It's based on a complex numerical model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

The video is a 36-hour time-lapse that shows the hurricane unfold in unprecedented detail, as it gathers momentum over the Bahamas. In the beginning, warm water evaporates from the ocean and condenses in the atmosphere to form storm clouds and rain. This process releases latent heat from the water vapour and warms the surrounding air, effectively feeding energy to the system. This sustains an area of extremely low pressure accompanied by warm air in the central eye, which causes powerful winds to spiral inwards. In this video, warm rising air is represented in yellow while colder sinking air is shown in blue.

The animation is part of a full-length planetarium film called Dynamic Earth which explores the inner workings of the Earth's climate engine. It was screened at the Fulldome UK festival on 12-13 March.

If you enjoyed this video, you might also like to see a clip from Fractals! another film that was shown at the Fulldome UK event.

The video description: Trajectories follow moist air rising into intense "hot tower" thunderstorms, and trace strong winds around the eye wall; rapidly rising air is yellow, sinking air blue. The sun, moon, and stars show the passing of time. The visualization highlights Katrina's awesome power and fierce beauty.