As long-time coastal residents know, hurricane forecasts are significantly more accurate than they were decades ago, particularly when it comes to predicting the track a storm will follow. Such gains are the result of research at NOAA, other federal agencies, and academic institutions. NOAA researchers will be using several innovative tools, techniques, and research results during the 2012 hurricane season to continue to improve hurricane forecasting. Several of these are summarized below in our 2012 hurricane research news briefs.
Meet EMILY, a sleek red and yellow, water-going, high-tech marvel. A 65-inch water-tight unmanned surface vehicle (USV), EMILY joins hurricane hunter planes Miss Piggy and Kermit as the newest member of NOAA’s hurricane research cast of characters. Research meteorologists will do initial testing of EMILY with the aim of gathering surface data from the center of tropical storms and hurricanes. EMILY’s sensors will collect barometric pressure, air and sea surface temperatures, salinity, and wind speed and direction. An onboard high-definition camera will also relay images back to NOAA scientists. Such surface data and imagery were previously impossible to obtain and represent a critical data gap for hurricane forecast improvement.
Hydronalix Inc. developed EMILY (an acronym for Emergency Integrated Life Saving Lanyard) for a variety of uses, including assisting beach lifeguards in choppy water rescues. The company is developing the EMILY hurricane tracker under a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant with funding support from the NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office. The concept of steering a small, remotely operated boat into the eye of a hurricane to gather data originated with NOAA Research. The EMILY autonomous surface platform can also be utilized for a variety of NOAA’s innovative research applications including monitoring of national marine sanctuaries, and detection of seafloor habitats, marine debris, and cultural resources.
After testing in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the California coast, the EMILY USVs will be ready for initial trials into tropical storms and hurricanes by summer 2012. With a battery and a gasoline motor, EMILY can run for up to 10 days. Scientists will remotely guide EMILY into a storm system’s eye. A “short burst data” satellite link on EMILY will facilitate a stream of data to scientists from the storm, and will allow scientists to steer the craft.