In a bid to strengthen the weather forecast system to predict hurricanes and their strength, the NASA scientists are using former military surveillance drones to understand more about how tropical storms intensify.
Terming the development important, the scientists believe that timely predications can help save lives.
The unmanned Global Hawk aircraft were designed to perform high-altitude, long-endurance reconnaissance and intelligence missions for the Air Force. Two of the original Global Hawks built in the developmental process for the military have found new life as part of NASA’s research mission, studying storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean.
As per reports, NASA planned the launch of one of the drones from its Wallops Flight Facility on Wednesday to study Tropical Storm Gabrielle, which re-formed in the Atlantic on Tuesday.
Paul Newman, deputy project scientist for the research mission, said, “The biggest scientific question we’re trying to attack is why do some hurricanes intensify very rapidly and why do others not intensify at all?”
He further added, “In the last 20 years, we’ve made terrific progress in forecasting where hurricane tracks will go, but almost no significant progress was seen.”
NASA scientists are primarily focusing on two aspects:
• One is what role thunderstorms within a hurricane play in its intensification. Researchers aren’t sure if the thunderstorms are a driver of storm intensity or a symptom of it.
• The other is what role the Saharan Air Layer plays in the tropical storm development. The Saharan Air Layer is a dry, hot, dusty layer of air from Africa. Scientists have been at odds with each other over whether it helps hurricanes strengthen or does the opposite. Some believe that the Saharan Air Layer provides energy for storms to grow, while others have suggested it is a negative influence on storm growth because of the effect the dry air has on wet storms.
If the mission gets successful, the scientists would be able to predict accurate intensity of storm. This would help government officials and coastal residents decide whether an evacuation is needed, as well as avoid developing a false sense of security among residents who frequently cite failed storm expectations as a reason not to leave their homes when warned to do so.