This summer, NOAA scientists and partners launched several new unmanned aircraft and water vehicles to collect weather information as part of a coordinated effort to improve hurricane forecasts.
To learn more about how the ocean modifies severe weather, including hurricanes, NOAA and its partners are launching underwater gliders to gather continuous data as they “glide” from the ocean surface to depths of more than 3,300 feet, and back.
Early in July, researchers from the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Library released two underwater gliders near Puerto Rico. Each is equipped to take measurements of ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and currents.
Scientists will also study the use of another unmanned system called a Wave Glider in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wave Gliders were launched in August off Biloxi, Miss., and float on the ocean surface, propelled by ocean waves, and are equipped with sensors to measure air and water temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and barometric pressure.
“Often forecasters do not have access to real-time hurricane environmental data since much of it can only be gathered by entering directly into extremely dangerous parts of a storm,” said Alan Leonardi, AOML’s deputy director. “New technologies like the Wave Glider are giving us real-time ground truth while also safely providing a closer look at the dynamics of air-sea interactions in a storm environment.”
A remotely operated robotic boat, the Emergency Integrated Life-Saving Lanyard – known as EMILY – will collect data on barometric pressure, air and sea surface temperatures, salinity, and wind speed and direction at the ocean surface as part of the Gulf project. On-board, high definition cameras will provide images directly to NOAA researchers.
Several of these research projects and other NOAA-led efforts to improve hurricane forecasting were made possible through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which Congress passed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It provides $60 billion in funding to multiple agencies for disaster relief. NOAA received $309.7 million to provide technical assistance to those states with coastal and fishery impacts from Sandy, and to improve weather forecasting and weather research and predictive capability to help future preparation, response and recovery from similar events.