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Tiny Satellites Could Help Warn of the Next Big Hurricane

the National Weather Service
National Hurricane Center
the American Meteorological Society’s
Monthly Weather Review
Hurricane Research Division
the Hurricane Research Division
the National Hurricane Center
Condé Nast
Affiliate Partnerships

Bill Blackwell
Scott Braun
Robert Rogers


the North Atlantic

Falcon 9
California Privacy Rights.

Puerto Rico’s
the United States
Cape Canaveral

Hurricane Maria

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The New York Times
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That creates a slowdown at a crucial time, because every data point a forecaster has could be a critical piece of the puzzle, allowing them to put together a more accurate picture of the approaching storm.The Tropics satellite constellation will reduce this lag, offering a new, detailed look at each 16- to 24-kilometer region in the lower latitudes every 30 to 40 minutes. “You’re essentially always getting a new satellite flying over your storm and making a new fresh measurement, capturing all the dynamics and seeing what’s changing, and the temperature and the moisture fields and the precipitation and the rain bands,” says Bill Blackwell, the project’s principal investigator.To achieve this, the nanosatellites must be launched into a very particular orbital configuration. Once the data is transmitted back to Earth, it will be linked directly to the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center and fed into numerical weather prediction models.For tropical cyclones, forecasters focus on the storm’s minimum pressure and maximum winds, says Tropics project scientist Scott Braun. To calibrate and verify the satellite data, they may also conduct an experiment aboard a Hurricane Hunter aircraft, which will release a dropsonde—similar to a weather balloon that can take real-time measurements—into the storm.Rogers says rapidly intensifying hurricanes can spell trouble for coastal towns and mean a long few days at the National Hurricane Center as the staff tries to assess potential threats and put out warnings.

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