Gulf Coast Hurricane Tracker

A single source reference on tropical weather predictions. With a traditional focus on the upper Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast we've maintained links to track all Atlantic Basin, Caribbean and eastern Pacific storm systems. We are now expanding our view to tropical storms throughout the world intending to be a comprehensive global storm tracking resource.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New method for measuring hurricane strength

Hurricane hunter aircraft are invaluable to measuring the intensity of a hurricane or strong tropical storm. The problem is that each flight is very expensive and quite dangerous. Congress eliminated the program in the Pacific and had eliminatd it in the Atlantic only to reinstate it when public outcry became too great.

Due to the high costs involved, only storms approaching the US get monitored in this way. Many storms in the Atlantic and all of the storms in the Pacific (where storms are more prevalent) go unmonitored, relying on satellite measurements for determination of intensity.

A new method, one that provides the data at a fraction of the cost and far less risk, can create a method to monitor all storms over the entire planet.

Nicholas Makris, associate professor of mechanical and ocean engineering and director of MIT's Laboratory for Undersea Remote Sensing, thinks there may be a better way. By placing hydrophones (underwater microphones) deep below the surface in the path of an oncoming hurricane, it's possible to measure wind power as a function of the intensity of the sound. The roiling action of the wind, churning up waves and turning the water into a bubble-filled froth, causes a rushing sound whose volume is a direct indicator of the storm's destructive power.

Satellite monitoring is good at showing the track of a hurricane, Makris says, but not as reliable as aircraft in determining destructive power.

The current warning systems are estimated to save $2.5 billion a year in the United States, and improved systems could save even more, he says. And since many parts of the world that are subject to devastating cyclones cannot afford the cost of hurricane-monitoring aircraft, the potential for saving lives and preventing devastating damage is even greater elsewhere.

Such a system can be deployed in the storm path ahead of a storm and can be set up in a grid pattern in especially prone areas such as the eastern Pacific or the Carribean Sea to have a permanent monitoring system in place. Such a system will also be able to detect sudden increases or decreases in intensity as a storm approaches land. The recent cyclone in Myanmar intensified suddenly and drastically as it made landfall while Katrina dropped significantly from a level 5 to a level 3 before she came ashore in Mississippi and Louisiana. Having this data cane help public service officials make better decisions before and during an evacuation.

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