Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Riders on the storm

19.11.2004


Drifting buoys & floats weather hurricanes for better storm prediction



While some are still cleaning up from the series of hurricanes that plowed through the Caribbean and southern United States this season, scientists supported by the Office of Naval Research are busily cleaning up valuable data collected during the storms. The rapid-fire hurricanes barely gave researchers time to rest between flights that took them into the hearts of Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. As part of a project called CBLAST, for Coupled Boundary Layer/Air-Sea Transfer, researchers air-dropped specially designed instruments into the paths of the hurricanes--and into the hurricanes themselves.

"This season has seen a breakthrough in hurricane and oceanographic research," said ONR program manager Dr. Carl Friehe. "Real-time data sent back by the drifters and floats have created great interest among oceanographers, meteorologists, and hurricane forecasters." Project CBLAST-Hurricane focuses on the energy exchanges between the ocean and atmosphere during a hurricane, and how those interactions affect a storm’s intensity (a separate CBLAST component studies low-wind interactions). By better understanding these energy exchanges, scientists can develop better models to predict a hurricane’s development. A hurricane’s intensity determines the size of the storm surge of water that precedes it--which can pose a significant threat to ships in port.


New instruments that can measure the ocean water’s temperature, salt content, and velocity--before, during, and after a hurricane--are providing a unique view of the conditions that affect a storm’s intensity. While satellites can provide ocean temperature data, they only monitor the "skin" or surface of the ocean down to just 1/8th of an inch. To reach into lower depths, ONR has sponsored the development of new ocean probes by Dr. Eric D’Asaro and Dr. Tom Sanford of the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory (Seattle), and Dr. Peter Niiler and Dr. Eric Terrill of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, Ca).

The data collected on water conditions over the course of a hurricane are crucial to forecast modeling because "the ocean is the gasoline for the hurricane’s engine," explained ONR’s Friehe. During the summer and fall, the sun warms the top hundred meters or so of the ocean. Hurricanes only form over these warm ocean regions, where water easily evaporates and is picked up by swirling weather patterns. "In order to build a model that can predict a storm’s development, we need to know exactly how much energy is in the water, as well as how it is distributed by depth and location between Africa and the Caribbean," he said.

The floats from the UW Applied Physics Lab and Scripps are programmed to bob up and down through the upper 200 meters (656 ft) of the ocean, measuring the water’s temperature, salinity, dissolved gases, and velocity. They also monitor underwater sounds as part of a study to develop methods of measuring hurricane force winds and rainfall. The floats from the Applied Physics Lab are deployed in a line perpendicular to a hurricane’s path, so that one is centered on the eye, another is about 50 km (27 nautical miles) to the north of the eye, and a third 100 km (54 nm) to the north. Each time the instruments reach the water’s surface, they transmit data back to scientists using satellite communications.

Drifters from the Scripps team remain on the ocean’s surface, floating like bottles with a message that’s constantly updated as their instruments measure air pressure, wind speed and direction, and sea surface temperature. They can collect data for as long as their batteries continue to function (up to several months) or they can be picked up by passing ships for reuse and downloading of more detailed information than they are able to transmit. The drifters and floats were dropped into the paths of this season’s hurricanes by the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (Keesler AFB, Miss.) from two C130J Hercules aircraft. The probes parachuted into the ocean and automatically began taking measurements. They returned time series of ocean profiles that documented the upwelling and mixing caused by the hurricanes. Several of the floats and drift buoys obtained an unprecedented second set of hurricane observations as Hurricane Jeanne followed closely on the path of Frances.

While the drifters and floats weathered the storms from sea level and below, other CBLAST instruments--and researchers--flew through Hurricane Jeanne in two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) WP-3D aircraft. From various altitudes throughout the storms, and with the help of fixed and deployed instruments, they collected data on air temperature and pressure, wind speed and direction, and precipitation. The combination of atmospheric and ocean science, technology (GPS, cell phones, miniature computers, etc.), deployment via aircraft, and the need for better hurricane forecasting have all come together in 2004 to mark a sea change in hurricane research, according to Friehe.

NOAA provides project management for CBLAST, as well as researchers, aircraft, flight crews, and other support through its Hurricane Research Division, Aircraft Operations Center, and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Researchers from the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School; University of Washington Applied Physics Lab; Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the University of Massachusetts Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory also participated. The 5-year (FY01-FY05) funding amount for CBLAST Hurricane is: $5.3 M from ONR and $0.7 M from NOAA’s U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP).

Jennifer Huergo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.onr.navy.mil

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Geophysicists and atmospheric scientists partner to track typhoons' seismic footprints
16.02.2018 | Princeton University

nachricht NASA finds strongest storms in weakening Tropical Cyclone Sanba
15.02.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

New printing technique uses cells and molecules to recreate biological structures

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

New tech for commercial Lithium-ion batteries finds they can be charged 5 times fast

20.02.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>