As part of its activities to better understand Earth’s dynamic climate, NASA research is helping to increase knowledge about the behavior of hurricane waves. The NASA Scanning Radar Altimeter (SRA), designed to take measurements of the changing wave height and structure in and around hurricanes, flew through many storms on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) WP-3D aircraft from 1998-2005. It captured unprecedented details on wave behavior that are helping improve sea height forecasts. Strong storms like Hurricane Bonnie in August 1998 - the first to be monitored by SRA - were found to produce severe ocean waves and dramatic changes in wave height and complexity over small distances.
The SRA measures waves by sweeping a radar beam across the ocean and measuring the distance to the sea at many points. Those distances are then subtracted from the aircraft altitude to produce a sea-surface elevation map that is displayed on a monitor in the aircraft.
While the flight portion of the SRA hurricane research program concluded with the 2005 hurricane season, the data gathered continue to help researchers develop and improve ocean wave computer models that simulate hurricane-generated ocean wave height, dominant wavelength, and wave direction.
These computer models allow wave behavior to be predicted at times and places where there are no observations. However, actual observations from SRA are essential because "they tell us how the wave field - the height, length and direction of waves in a given area – actually varies with a hurricane's wind speed, size, and forward motion so that we can improve the performance of the models that disaster managers and structural engineers rely on for guidance," said C. Wayne Wright, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.
Ongoing research efforts have shown that ocean wave height responds rapidly to changes in a storm's wind speed. But scientists believe the overall wave field is also driven by the size or radius of a storm's strongest winds, and its forward speed. In Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 the largest waves, up to 40 feet, were found near the strongest winds. In September 2004, scientists with the Naval Research Laboratory-Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Miss., measured a record-size ocean wave - a whopping 91 feet - when the eye wall of Hurricane Ivan passed over sensors in open water over the Gulf of Mexico.
"Ocean depth is another critical factor in wave height," said Edward Walsh, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. "Our observations from Hurricane Bonnie indicated that as soon as the waves encountered the continental shelf - the underwater extension of the coastal plain - their length began to shorten and they became steeper. As the water became shallow, wave height plummeted."
Similarly, with Hurricane Rita in September 2005, the wave height dropped dramatically and was only 9 feet when wave energy was lost due to the shoaling of water on the continental shelf - the process in which waves coming into shallow waters are slowed by friction and become closer together and steeper.
Fortunately, a storm's most massive waves usually decrease in size when they interact with the ocean's continental shelf and other land forms, like "barrier islands" that form a thin protective wall between the open sea and the mainland. The islands absorb the strongest waves, sheltering the mainland during large storms. But with powerful storms like Katrina, the constant battering of waves can take a toll on the land, leaving the islands reduced or gone altogether.
SRA's detailed and precise information, together with data to be gathered by a new operational SRA being built by NOAA to replace the NASA prototype, promises to provide additional insight into a hurricane's behavior. Such research is increasingly important as areas become more prone to higher storm surges as natural defenses like barrier islands and wetlands disappear.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered
18.01.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy