Air-Sea Interface Monitoring of Hurricanes
Customer: NOAA AOML
The Eastern Seaboard is home to one of the United States’ most volatile weather regions. The ability to improve the accuracy and reliability of hurricane and tropical storm forecasts, including efforts to improve guidance for hurricane track and intensity, and storm surge forecasts, is paramount in order to minimize hurricane-related deaths, injuries and property damage.
NOAA’s greatest hurricane challenge is accurately predicting hurricane wind speed, known as hurricane intensity. NOAA lists improving hurricane intensity as one of its top priorities for the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. One effort to better understand how hurricanes become stronger or dissipate is to target the air-sea interface where warm ocean waters transfer heat energy to the overlying tropical system. This environment is too turbulent for NOAA’s traditional hurricane hunter aircraft, and so scientists are exploring alternative, unmanned platforms to best observe this energy transfer.
“Among the [Wave Glider’s] features are the ability to use the platform for more than just one application, the ability to reconfigure the platform to meet your scientific need, and the ability for long-duration sensing that lends the platform to such a wide variety of applications. It will be interesting to see how the platform evolves and if the science community is able to fully exploit this flexibility for a variety of scientific challenges.”
- Alan P. Leonardi, Ph.D., deputy director, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
How We Helped
A Wave Glider marine robot from Liquid Robotics is being used in the Atlantic Ocean to collect critical data in areas that would be too difficult or too dangerous to monitor by other means. Located just north of Puerto Rico, approximately 27 nautical miles offshore, the Wave Glider is equipped with a standard weather station (Airmar PB200 measuring temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, gusts, barometric pressure), a wave sensor (Datawell MOSE-G directional wave sensor), and a thermistor chain to measure the water temperature at 6 nodes from the surface down to 7 meters depth.
“Currently, we can get a decent sense of the underlying ocean heat content using satellite data, but we often cannot ground truth that data in real-time in a storm environment since much of this data can only be gathered by entering into extremely dangerous parts of a storm,” said Alan Leonardi, deputy director, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML). “Unmanned technologies such as the Wave Glider may be able to give us that real-time ground truth and can also give us a closer look at the dynamics of air-sea interactions in a storm environment safely.”
With enough Wave Glider platforms in the water, AOML would likely be able to collect data that may be too expensive or dangerous to gather in any other way. “This will not only increase the probability of collecting the data we need, but may also give us more data across multiple different points in a storm,” said Alan Leonardi.