NOAA will soon launch a fleet of 15 unmanned gliders in the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean this hurricane season to collect important oceanic data that could prove useful to forecasters. “If you want to improve prediction of how hurricanes gain strength or weaken as they travel over the ocean, it’s critical to take the ocean’s temperature and measure how salty it is,” said Gustavo Goni, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory who is helping lead the glider research. “Not just at the surface, which we measure with satellites, but down into deeper layers of ocean waters.”
Scientists strategically deployed the gliders during the peak of hurricane season, from July through November 2017, collecting data in regions where hurricanes commonly travel and intensify. The gliders continually gathered temperature and salinity profile data, generating more than 4,000 profiles to enhance scientific understanding of the air-sea interaction processes that drive hurricane intensification.
Glider SG609 is one of four gliders that are part of the Hurricane Field Program at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. AOML launched its glider project in 2014 with the goal of enhancing the understanding of air-sea interaction processes during tropical cyclones. Scientists and technicians from AOML and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagues run the deployments and recoveries out of Isla Magueyes Marine Laboratories in Puerto Rico, which neighbors the colorful coastal island community of La Paguera.
Scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) are at the vanguard of hurricane research. Each hurricane season we fly into storms, pore over observations and models, and consider new technological developments to enhance NOAA’s observing capacity and improve track and intensity forecasts. The 2016 hurricane season will provide an opportunity for our scientists to test some of the most advanced and innovative technologies and refined forecasting tools to help better predict a storm’s future activity.