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.
Soccer’s quadrennial World Cup is scheduled to start on time this week in Brazil, despite delays in creating the necessary infrastructure, strikes, charges of corruption, and deaths of workers in new stadiums. But one problem remains: climate conditions that will sap the strength and vitality – and possibly damage the health – of the elite players who represent the 32 nations in the tournament.
That’s ironic, because the event is taking place in the southern winter – the natural season for the game. But for several international teams, the tourney will represent a winter of discontent.
Stadiums in northern Brazil will host the most extreme weather. Daytime temperatures in some locations will exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity will exceed 75 percent. The conditions will make it difficult for teams to exert maximum effort over the entire match, especially teams from cooler climes.
"In humid conditions, moisture in the atmosphere prevents the evaporation of sweat, which drips instead, a less efficient heat loss mechanism," explained John Brewer, a former head of sport science for the English Football Association and currently a professor of sport at the U.K.’s University of Bedfordshire. "High environmental temperatures also reduce the body’s ability to radiate heat into the atmosphere, so both heat loss mechanisms are compromised."
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.