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Uncrewed ocean gliders and saildrones are revolutionizing hurricane forecasting


Glider tracks from the 2018 (orange), 2019 (purple), 2020 (yellow), and 2021* (blue) hurricane seasons (May to November) generated with knowledge from the Built-in Ocean Observing System Glider Knowledge Meeting Middle, with an overlay of tropical cyclone tracks (black dots) from the Worldwide Finest Observe Archive for Local weather Stewardship (IBTrACS). The desk within the higher left signifies the yearly breakdown of glider deployments, glider days at sea, and picked up profiles. (*2021 knowledge had been extracted on Sept. 17, 2021, previous to the completion of the Atlantic hurricane season. Credit: T. Miles

With forecasters at NOAA’s Local weather Prediction Middle (a division of the Nationwide Climate Service) predicting above-average hurricane exercise this yr, a paper printed within the peer assessment journal Oceanography reveals that robotic ocean observing platforms can enhance depth forecasts for hurricanes and tropical storms and must be supported as a vital part of the ocean infrastructure designed to guard the lives of coastal residents and mitigate the financial impression from storms.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which formally begins in the present day, is predicted to convey 14-21 named storms, together with 3 to six major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or increased.

Within the U.S., hurricanes have brought about greater than $1 trillion in losses since 1980, and whereas the landfall forecasts that drive evacuation orders and information coastal preparations forward of storms have been steadily bettering, storm power forecasting has lagged. Storm depth is influenced by many elements, together with atmospheric circulation, inside storm dynamics and air-sea interactions, in addition to boundary currents—as an example, the Loop Present within the Gulf of Mexico—and even seafloor topography

Whereas some current ocean observing instruments present knowledge helpful for numerical storm modeling, they aren’t responsive sufficient to fill all the info gaps, particularly within the air-sea interface—the place the ocean and ambiance change warmth and vitality—and higher ocean dynamics, that are crucial for forecasting storm power. Between 2018 and 2021, underwater gliders had been deployed greater than 280 occasions and spent 13,000 days at sea within the open Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and off the U.S. East Coast throughout hurricane seasons to check whether or not they may assist fill the info gaps.

Underwater gliders are autonomous underwater robots that acquire ocean knowledge in remote locations and at depth and might be programmed and piloted remotely to conduct particular missions.

These gliders are geared up to speak with satellites, permitting them to transmit ocean knowledge to modelers and forecasters in actual time or near-real time. In 2021, Saildrones—wind and solar-powered automobiles that journey alongside the ocean’s floor to assemble knowledge—had been additionally employed. In addition they talk through satellite tv for pc in actual time or near-real time.

Each kinds of robots can function and collect knowledge in hazardous circumstances the place sending crewed ships would put human lives in danger. And, given their capability to speak knowledge rapidly, data might be utilized for storm forecasting in near-real time—even whereas storms are approaching coastal populations.

For example, through the 2021 season, the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) supported the first-time deployment and operation of 5 excessive climate Saildrones strategically situated within the western tropical Atlantic, the Caribbean and East Coast. They repeatedly measured properties within the near-surface ambiance and ocean and transmitted one-minute averaged knowledge to the info facilities in actual time for assimilation into forecast fashions and for different public use.

Within the paper, “Uncrewed Ocean Gliders and Saildrones Support Hurricane Forecasting and Research,” authors from greater than a dozen governmental, nongovernmental and tutorial establishments concerned in deploying these platforms through the 2021 hurricane season detailed how gliders have improved depth forecasting and, additional, how including Saildrones working in shut proximity improved depth forecasting even additional.

“One of the main objectives during the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was to obtain measurements of the upper ocean and air-sea coupling within a hurricane from co-located platforms at the same time,” mentioned the research’s lead creator, Dr. Travis N. Miles, Assistant Research Professor within the Rutgers University Middle for Ocean Observing Management. “These data can help us understand how upper ocean features and the overlying atmosphere co-evolve during hurricanes. This is particularly important with storms like Ida that rapidly intensified over the dynamic coastal ocean before making landfall. Direct assimilation of these data into models, and new model development based on research findings will lead to improved modeling systems and ultimately better intensity forecasts.”

The research additionally requires future deployments to mix simultaneous measurements to proceed to enhance hurricane modeling and forecasting.

“In the ocean observing community, we know that the tools and technologies we bring to bear to help forecast the strength and movement of these storms saves lives and that our predictions have greatly improved over time,” says Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, research co-author and Senior Advisor from the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing Organization (GCOOS), which hosts and shares ocean observing knowledge from gliders and different devices. “We also know that having more ocean observing assets in place could only make things safer for all coastal communities—in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. At GCOOS, we continue to advocate for funding to support these tools.”

GCOOS has developed a software (nicknamed GANDALF) that tracks and maps gliders at the moment deployed within the Gulf of Mexico. Customers can see what number of gliders are at the moment within the Gulf, their location and entry knowledge being collected by the gliders. Knowledge collected consists of water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and different parameters, relying on analysis wants.

GCOOS has additionally created the GCOOS Hurricane Dashboard, a software that gives data wanted to watch the power and motion of tropical techniques and how one can put together if a storm is heading towards your private home. Customers can entry the present location, depth, and motion of tropical techniques, newest predictions, native emergency contacts, and steerage for storm preparations.


NOAA hurricane forecast 2022: Up to 21 named storms possible; as many as 10 hurricanes could form


Extra data:
Travis N. Miles et al, Uncrewed Ocean Gliders and Saildrones Assist Hurricane Forecasting and Research, Oceanography (2022). DOI: 10.5670/oceanog.2021.supplement.02-28

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Uncrewed ocean gliders and saildrones are revolutionizing hurricane forecasting (2022, June 2)
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