Tiny Satellites Launched To Measure Hurricane Winds

NASA Launches Satellites To Measure Hurricane Winds

On Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. NASA will launch an aircraft similar to a commercial airliner carrying a Pegasus rocket to about 40,000 feet. The rocket will be propelled into space where it will release eight small satellites into orbit for better hurricane predictions.

The mission is a first-of-its-kind. It will deploy satellites that will work to measure near-surface ocean winds in hurricanes, typhoons and other tropical cyclones around the globe.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System’s, or CYGNSS, goal is to improve hurricane intensity forecasts, which is more difficult and less accurate than forecasting the path of a storm.

The reason it is so difficult is because of the lack of wind observations int he ocean. Meteorologists knew the path of a storm because there are satellites that are constantly monitoring the location of the clouds and rain from the storms, but couldn’t ever see the winds underneath the storm’s clouds.

“We’re really excited because this will be the first time ever that satellites can peer into the middle of hurricanes and predict how strong they’ll be when they make landfall,” said Dr. Chris Ruf, a professor at the University of Michigan and the principal investigator of CYGNSS, said to CNN.
Ruf said the eight small satellites being released are “about the size of a typical microwave oven in your kitchen.” Those are much smaller than a normal weather satellite, which compares to the size of a small bus.
The satellites will use GPS receivers similar to those in cell phones and will measure the roughness of the ocean surface. They will orbit the tropical belt between 35° N and 35° S and will provide up to 32 wind measurements per second and will pass over an existing hurricane every 12 minutes.
The CYGNSS satellites’ ability to see inside heavy rain will provide an abundance of new information beginning as early as the 2017 hurricane season.
Brian McNoldy, who has worked with the sample data, told CNN, “the data should help to diagnose a tropical cyclone’s intensity and wind field structure, as well as improve short-term forecasts of its intensity and winds.”