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COULD SATELLITES BE USED TO MEASURE HURRICANE WINDS?

In the wake of the devastating 2017 hurricane season, it is clear that understanding a storm's conditions as it makes landfall can be tremendously beneficial in saving lives and property. New research for the first time has shown promising results in determining hurricane wind speeds from satellites by monitoring GPS signals, and if verified, the finding could improve wind predictions considerably. The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Building upon prior work that measured hurricane winds by reading GPS signals from aircraft, researchers decided to look at the Global Navigation Satellite System-Reflectometry (GNSS-R) technique, which can measure surface characteristics like wind speed, ocean conditions, and soil moisture by observing GPS signals from satellite altitudes as they rebound off the Earth. The research team reviewed data collected by the Space GNSS Receiver Remote Sensing Instrument on a satellite located more than 600 kilometers above the ocean that were taken between May 2015 and October 2016, a period that included three significant tropical cyclones: major Hurricanes Joaquin and Jimena, and powerful Typhoon Chan-hom.

The researchers compared the GNSS-R data to information from other sources, including climate reanalysis products, a scatterometer, and tropical cyclone best-track data from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. They discovered that the GNSS-R satellite measurements of near-surface wind speed in each hurricane closely matched the best-track data and agreed better than estimates from the other sources. The GNSS-R technique also recorded sudden changes in wind speed around the storms' eyes without any loss of data--an important result given that other satellite data are known to be affected by intense precipitation.

The researchers noted that further testing of the GNSS-R method is needed at higher wind speeds because their experiment used existing technology that was developed to measure low to moderate winds and only accounted for speeds of up to 67 mph.

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Title Annotation:TECHNOLOGY
Publication:Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Date:Jul 1, 2018
Words:304
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