NASA Smallsats to aid hurricane forecasts with GPS

Xinhua
Eight briefcase-size NASA satellites may be key to improving forecasts of a hurricane's wind speed, detecting whether it will make landfall as a Category 1 or a Category 5.
Xinhua

Eight briefcase-size NASA satellites flying in a row may be key to improving forecasts of a hurricane's wind speed, detecting whether it will make landfall as a Category 1 or a Category 5, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday.

NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System fleet, launched in 2016, was designed to show whether the GPS signals used for navigation by phones can be used to measure winds deep within a hurricane or typhoon.

The answer appears to be a resounding "yes," said JPL.

Weather forecasting models have gotten much better at predicting the future track of a hurricane or typhoon, but they have not improved at predicting its maximum wind speed, which scientists call intensity.

"To predict intensity, you have to measure wind speed right in the middle of the storm and, until CYGNSS, there hasn't been a way to do it other than flying Hurricane Hunter planes," said CYGNSS Principal Investigator Christopher Ruf of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The new CYGNSS data proved to be an excellent match with Hurricane Hunter data collected at the same time during 2017's hurricanes Maria, Irma and Jose, according to JPL.

The eight small satellites, orbiting with only a 12-minute gap between each one, collected more data on each storm than could be gathered during a Hurricane Hunter flight, according to JPL. 

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