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NASA's New Hurricane Satellites Are Up

First Posted: Dec 23, 2016 03:00 AM EST

There are eight specialized microsatellites that are slightly larger than those carry-on suitcases that were launched from beneath an airplane on Dec. 12 to monitor hurricanes and cyclones in the tropics. The device will pierce through rainfall to measure the wind speeds found at the heart of the storm.

There had been previous satellites that measured wind speeds over water by shooting the radio waves found in the ocean and they measured how the waves scatter on the surface, thus indicating the wind speed. However, these satellites were only limited to monitor one site at a time and the radio waves could easily scatter when the rainfalls strike heavily, like that of a hurricane, according to Space.com.

A constellation of satellites called CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) lightens the load by separately carrying the receivers and picking up reflected GPS signals already sent down to Earth by these navigation satellites. The microwave wavelengths can easily go through the hurricane to measure its wind speed.

Researchers have stated that by working together, the eight satellites could survey the hurricane danger area and, even more, will be reported by ground stations in Hawaii, Australia and Chile. Chris Ruf of CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) and is the principal investigator and researcher at University of Michigan stated that this will be the first time ever that satellites can peer into hurricanes and predict how powerful a hurricane can be when they make a landfall.

Moreover, satellites of CYGNSS mission will observe the relationship between ocean surface properties, radiation, moist atmospheric thermodynamics and convective dynamics to determine how a tropical cyclone forms. These satellites can also let scientists predict whether or not the particular cyclone will strengthen, and if so by how much. Thus, this will advance tracking methods and forecasting of hurricanes. 

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