The point where the roiling ocean meets the fury of a hurricane’s winds may hold the key to improving storm intensity forecasts — but it’s nearly impossible for scientists to see. That may change this summer, thanks to post-Hurricane Sandy federal funding and a handful of winged drones.
These drones can spend hours spiraling in a hurricane’s dark places, transmitting data that could help forecasters understand what makes some storms fizzle while others strengthen into monsters. Knowing that information while a storm is still far offshore could help emergency managers better plan for evacuations or storm surge risks.
A hurricane is like an engine, and warm ocean water is its fuel. One secret, scientists say, is getting a better understanding of how the warm water transfers energy to tropical storms.
“We really need to get a better idea of what’s going on down there before we even look to improve our intensity forecast,” said Joe Cione, who studies how storms interact with the ocean at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division in Miami. … (Read more)