Associate professor Catherine Edwards and her team from the University of Georgia have developed a fleet of underwater robots known as “gliders” to study and gather data from underneath hurricanes. These torpedo-shaped watercrafts, developed by the university’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, have the ability to change their buoyancy and center of gravity, allowing them to move in a zig-zag pattern and adjust their depth. This enables them to collect data on temperature and salinity of the water, which helps in understanding the heat available and energy transfer potential within the hurricane.
The gliders work alongside NOAA’s and the U.S. Navy’s hurricane forecast models by resurfacing every 4 to 6 hours and reporting their real-time measurements. These measurements are crucial in creating accurate forecasts and improving our understanding of the behavior and intensity of hurricanes. Operators of the gliders are stationed along the U.S. East Coast and the Caribbean as part of a hurricane glider network.
Moreover, the gliders are often paired with NOAA’s Saildrones, which collect additional data on hurricanes from the ocean’s surface. This combination allows for simultaneous measurements of heat exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere, providing comprehensive insights into the dynamics of the storms.
While gliders may not be suitable for rapid response missions due to their slower speed compared to Hurricane Hunters, they are strategically deployed in areas where features in the ocean play a crucial role in storm behavior. This approach enables researchers to better understand rapid intensification or de-intensification of hurricanes like Hurricane Lee.
Currently, gliders are deployed along the eastern coastline from Florida to the Canadian border, and there are plans to expand their deployment in the future.
Using gliders to monitor and collect data from underneath hurricanes is an innovative approach that enhances our understanding of these powerful storms. It enables scientists to gather valuable information on temperature, salinity, and energy transfer, ultimately leading to improved hurricane forecasts and better preparedness for these natural disasters.
– Catherine Edwards, associate professor at the University of Georgia
– University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
– NOAA’s and the U.S. Navy’s hurricane forecast models