Science

NASA Will Launch Satellites Into Space For Better Hurricane Tracking

By Christie Abagon , Nov 15, 2016 10:01 PM EST
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The world experiences killer storms every year.  Just this year, Matthew, a category 5 hurricane claimed hundreds of lives in the Caribbean and left an estimated $10.6 billion in damages in the U.S. and other affected countries.  In an effort to prevent similar tragedies, NASA will launch a constellation of micro satellites to track hurricanes and predict their trajectories better. 

On December 12, NASA will release eight micro-satellites into space called CYGNSS, or the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System.  The launch will be made via the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. CYGNSS will measure details which are essential to understanding the formation and intensity of storms.  Such details were previously unknown to scientists.

The Satellites Could Deliver More Accurate Forecasts

CYGNSS will use a bi-static scatterometry technique based on GPS signals.  What makes it different from other weather satellites is that CYGNSS can penetrate the heavy rain of the storm's 'eyewall' to generate data about its intense core.  The eyewall acts like a storm's engine by extracting  extracting energy from the warm surface of the ocean into the atmosphere via evaporation.

CYGNSS's Mission Is To Forecast Killer Hurricanes Before They Even Develop

Christine Bonniksen, CYGNSS program executive with the Science Mission Directorate's Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters said: "CYGNSS is a tool that will provide us 24/7 coverage of the tropical cyclone zone, and it will improve our knowledge of how hurricanes grow so that we can better prepare and protect the people in the path of each hurricane as it comes.  We came in on schedule, on cost, and on science."

Predicting where hurricanes will strike is not an easy job.  Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate said: "Earth science saves lives.  CYGNSS will improve our ability to understand and predict how these deadly storms develop."

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