DISCUSSION: “People generally want to know three things about any hurricane: when and where it will make landfall, and how bad will it be.” To be able to forecast and provide the public with all this information, it takes a lot of people, time, and effort to collect the data needed. This past hurricane season was ranked the fifth-most active season since records began in 1851, with 17 named storms. Regarding research during the last hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued seven rapid intensification forecasts, and of which, six were correct. Periods of rapid intensification indicate that the maximum sustained winds associated with a tropical cyclone have increased by at least 30 knots (35 mph), or above, within a 24-hour period. But what is it that makes the associated hurricane research so important?
The amount of information and research on just one single hurricane can be an overwhelming amount, making the amount of information on all hurricanes mind boggling. It is this information that is collected and referenced both during and after a given tropical storm. This allows the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the National Hurricane Center to create models and forecasts for the public.
To understand how various hurricane research protects the public, you must understand the basics of a hurricane. Most hurricanes which form within the Tropical Atlantic basin develop within the Caribbean Sea and/or the North Atlantic Ocean. Often times, the most destructive tropical cyclones form off the coast of western Africa when thunderstorms travel westward and gradually develop an area of lower pressure near the center of the predominant convection. The localized change in minimum central pressure within the developing tropical storm catalyzes an increase in the inward rotation of the wind flow towards the center of the developing circulation.
While traveling across the warm waters over the course of what is most often several days, these storms can become very dangerous. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA can collect data on these hurricanes from a combination of both satellites and aircraft. They collect information about the rainfall rates, surface wind speeds, cloud heights, environmental temperature, ocean heat, and humidity. Each of these things effect how the storm is going to evolve and how it may ultimately end up impacting people living in given regions being threatened by said storm.
One of the instruments that is deployed from aircraft(s) that fly into hurricanes is referred to as a Dropsonde. According to NASA, a Dropsonde is an 11-inch long tube that is light and flimsy. It includes a parachute to slow it down and is ejected from one such un-manned aerial vehicle which is known as the Global Hawk. While it falls, it both measures and collects formation about vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, as well as both wind speed and direction. Upon collecting this critical information, the dropsonde immediately transmits the information back to a computer.
One of the most important measurements is the wind speed. This is due to the fact that upon a hurricane hitting land, the storm surge is a direct result of how the strong the winds are. Without being able to predict strong winds in advance, affected areas can’t prepare and evacuate accordingly. The storm surge flooding can often generate life-threatening situations when not forecasted properly. Back in the day when there was a major lack of geostationary satellites and aircraft to help forecast such events, hurricanes were a much greater threat to society due to the greater lack of a more accurate predictability factor.
As someone may infer, scientific research has made substantial progress in how we forecast hurricanes. However, it is crucial to continue researching/learning more about hurricanes.
(Citied: NASA, National Weather Service, NOAA, Hurricane Hunters Association)
To learn more about other interesting topics in meteorological research, be sure to click here!
© 2018 Weather Forecaster Allison Finch