September 06, 2016


In a world that has witnessed many destructive and disastrous storms and hurricanes, the need to better track these extreme weather events have become pertinent. Storm hunting simply connotes gathering knowledge about the processes occurring inside storms and how these processes affect storm formation and intensification. This has enabled scientists to forecast the tracks of storms and hurricanes and predict more accurately the intensity of future storms.

Storm hunting has witnessed many advancements in the last several decades. Originally, scientists used hurricane-hunting planes to send dropsondes (which are instruments that float down with a parachute) to gather data on a storm. These traditional instruments were unable to fly above 5,000 feet due to their inability to weather through extreme turbulence. A storm's intensity is driven by multiple factors, which made storm hunting difficult with the traditional instruments. These factors range from large-scale elements, such as winds that steer the storms, to smaller-scale ones that include how individual clouds organize themselves into bigger cloud systems. The latter was difficult to observe in space and time, in part because it occurs across only a few hundred kilometers. In recent years, researchers have been able to develop hurricane-proof data-gathering drones that can fly above 5,000 feet.

On September 10, 2013, NASA scientists made a landmark in the world of unmanned aircraft systems. They successfully studied the storm using a drone that was able to fly above the swirling mass of clouds to examine how storm forms and grows. The drone which was in the form of an airplane was dubbed Global Hawk . The Global Hawk was designed such that it enables scientists witness the life cycles of tropical storms and hurricanes by helping researchers in studying them. These observations help scientists in developing more accurate models projecting the path of storms and determining whether or not they will gather strengths. The NASA's Global Hawk drones have relatively small bodies, with a wingspan that stretches 35 meters. The all-white flying machines are able to perform long flights for an average of 18-24 hours over altitudes as high as 60,000 feet. The Global hawk uses a variety of equipment including dopsondes, which measure temperature, moisture, and wind speed when dropped from the flying robot. 

Similarly, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) successfully launched its unmanned aerial vehicle into Hurricane Edouard from one of its hurricane-hunter aircraft. The flying robot, named Coyote is a winged, 7-pound drone. It is designed such that when dropped from a plane, can descend slowly all the way through the core of a storm. It is able to fly for two hours on its own. The flying machine uses GPS device to transmit data, used by scientists to understand how storm intensifies and to accurately predict the impact of a storm. Its relative lightweight design enables it to fly with the wind directed up, down and sideways to currents. This makes it possible for the drone to measure the storm's inner core and storm activity at the lowest altitudes. The invention of these advanced drones have helped officials in preparing adequately for possible hurricanes. Thus, reducing potential disasters from these extreme weather events. 


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