Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Faraway Sensors Warn Of Emerging Hurricane's Strength

Date:
September 12, 2007
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
A new study supported by NASA and the US Office of Naval Research takes forecasters one step further to improving their ability to predict just how powerful an oncoming storm may become by using highly-sensitive sensors located thousands of miles from the storm to detect lightning outbreaks within a hurricane's most dangerous area.

Days before a growing hurricane possibly batters a local coastline, meteorologists rush to predict just how strong its winds and rains may grow knowing that lives and an area’s economy may depend on their results. New research will hellp predict just how powerful an oncoming storm may become by using highly-sensitive sensors located thousands of miles from the storm to detect lightning outbreaks within a hurricane’s most dangerous area.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

A new study supported by NASA and the U.S. Office of Naval Research takes forecasters one step further to improving their ability to predict just how powerful an oncoming storm may become by using highly-sensitive sensors located thousands of miles from the storm to detect lightning outbreaks within a hurricane's most dangerous area.

Researchers can now investigate with greater accuracy how the rate of lightning strikes produced within a hurricane's eyewall is tied to the changing strength of that hurricane. A hurricane's eyewall is the inner heat-driven region of the storm that surrounds the "eye" where the most intense rainfall and most powerful winds occur. By monitoring the intensity of lightning near a hurricane's eye, scientists will be able to improve their forecasts of when a storm will unleash its harshest conditions.

During the study, researchers used data from a growing network of new, long-range, ground-based lightning sensors, a NASA satellite and aircraft-based sensors. They explored the relationship between eyewall lightning outbreaks and the intensity of two of the most severe Atlantic storms on record before they made U.S. landfall: category five hurricanes Katrina and Rita. An article on this research, also supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, will be published in the American Meteorological Society's Monthly Weather Review later this year.

"There are very few observing systems that offer a broad view of a storm over the open ocean where hurricanes tend to build or lose strength," said lead author Kirt Squires, a recent graduate of the meteorology program at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. "What's really compelling about the new sensors is their increased sensitivity to pick up lightning's electromagnetic signal over water from such a long distance. As a result, we can see thunderstorm activity over the ocean from thousands of miles away for the first time. This development is essential to improving the way meteorologists can look at a growing storm to judge just how harsh it will be."

When water condenses from vapor into a cloud droplet, latent or hidden heat is released, which in turn builds updrafts -- air moving upwards in a cloud. Latent heat provides the energy that fuels hurricanes. If the ensuing updrafts are strong enough, they can cause the separation of charge that produces lightning. The tight correlation between the rate of lightning strikes, the amount of rainfall and the heat released in the eyewall of a storm allows the lightning rate data to be useful in computer models that forecast hurricane track and intensity.

"Hurricane forecasters and researchers are very interested in developing methods that allow a continuous examination of the structural growth of the eyewall within hurricanes," said co-author Steven Businger, a senior professor of meteorology at the University of Hawaii. "The fact that lightning is directly linked to the heat energy released in the eyewall makes it a priority for us to examine the evolution of lightning within a storm."

Researchers studied data on intensity and lightning strike rate from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, both from 2005. They were trying to determine whether a link existed between the two traits. The researchers combined data from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite's microwave radiometers and from sensors onboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's P-3 "hurricane hunter" aircraft that fly into the storm, with the enhanced sensor capability of the NASA co-funded Pacific Lightning Detection Network.

The network comprises four state-of-the-art, long-range, high-sensitivity sensors located around the central northern Pacific Ocean. Businger is working with the U.S. division of Finnish technology firm Vaisala, Tucson, Ariz., and other agencies to expand the network with eight additional sensor sites by the end of 2008. It is part of the larger North American Lightning Detection Network of nearly 200 sensors that monitors lightning over the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Though Businger acknowledges that more research is needed, results from this study show that the growth and density of lightning strikes in a hurricane's eyewall provide important insight into the inner workings of the most powerful storms on Earth, information that may in the future help save lives through improved hurricane forecasts.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "New Faraway Sensors Warn Of Emerging Hurricane's Strength." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906162003.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2007, September 12). New Faraway Sensors Warn Of Emerging Hurricane's Strength. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906162003.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "New Faraway Sensors Warn Of Emerging Hurricane's Strength." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906162003.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins