Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
    Robots Underneath Hurricanes: Monitoring and Collecting Data to Improve Forecasts

    Submersibles known as “gliders” are being used to monitor and collect data from underneath hurricanes in order to gain a better understanding of these powerful storms and improve forecasting accuracy. Developed by the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, these torpedo-shaped watercraft change their buoyancy and center of gravity to navigate underwater in zig-zag patterns and collect data on water temperature and salinity.

    The data collected by the gliders is crucial in understanding the three-dimensional heat available to the atmosphere, which can potentially fuel hurricanes and other tropical activity. Additionally, salinity data provides insights into the transfer of energy. After collecting data, the gliders resurface every 4 to 6 hours and transmit real-time measurements to NOAA and the U.S. Navy’s hurricane forecast models.

    A network of operators situated along the U.S. East Coast and the Caribbean works together to deploy and track the gliders. These gliders are often paired with NOAA’s Saildrones, which collect data from the ocean’s surface. By combining measurements from both above and below the water’s surface, researchers gain a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamics occurring during a hurricane.

    While gliders are not deployed for rapid response situations, as they move relatively slowly, they are strategically placed over areas where ocean features play a significant role. This allows researchers to better understand the rapid intensification or de-intensification of storms, gaining insights into their energy fluctuations.

    Currently, gliders are deployed along the eastern coastline, extending from Florida up to the Canadian border. In the future, researchers aim to deploy additional gliders to further enhance hurricane data collection efforts.

    This article is based on the original source published by Catherine Edwards, associate professor at the University of Georgia.

    – Catherine Edwards, associate professor at the University of Georgia