When a major storm develops, we want to know where it will hit and how strong it will be. Currently, the best way to study a hurricane is to fly a plane near the storm to collect data. But, that approach can be costly, not to mention very dangerous.
“If you look at Katrina, we were completely wrong with the intensity of the hurricane” said Kamran Mohseni, an aerospace engineer at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
To track storms now, aircraft fly over the storms and drop a device that collects data as it falls through the clouds. But it’s not a perfect way to collect information.
“You put people at risk. The airplane is at risk and it is extremely expensive, and if you crash, that’s major news,” said Mohseni.
Japanese atmospheric scientists reveal they have cracked the code to model a complex weather phenomenon using a new supercomputer. They say their work will help build more accurate forecasts of monsoons and tropical cyclones up to a month away.
Their research focused on moving regions of wet and dry weather that travel over the warm parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These regions move eastward at up to 18 mph in a regular 30- to 60-day cycle of thunderstorms followed by suppressed precipitation. The phenomenon is called the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and influences deadly monsoon and cyclone development. It has also been linked to the periodic El Niño/La Niña weather event in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Efforts to model the globe-spanning MJO’s variability have been limited by the complicated physics that happens within the churning clouds. But atmospheric researchers at the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo employed the K computer to accurately recreate MJOs of the past, proving that it will be important for future forecasts.
In most hurricanes the greatest damage is done not by the wind but from the storm surge, the mountain of water pushed by raging winds from the ocean to deluge the land.
There is always a level of unpredictability when dealing with Mother Nature, but knowing where the water would go when a storm is bearing down on the coast would be useful, particularly in densely populated coastal cities such as New York, which maintains complex systems of houses, office buildings, sidewalks, basements, alleys, subway stations, and streets clogged with parked cars.
Scientists at the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences at Gloucester Point, Va., reported they have a computer model that may do that, starting about 30 hours before the storm comes ashore. At least it worked in retrospect with the Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the East Coast in 2012.
Click through for an interactive map of New York City flooding and a video.