Intro

<p>How do you study something that has enough destructive power to cripple entire cities and remake coastlines? Based on the work of hurricane scientists, the answer is "carefully, and with the most rugged technology available."</p> <p>Although researchers have investigated hurricanes for decades, increasingly powerful storms, and post-Katrina fears about the damage these storms can do, have lead scientists to deploy a new generation of devices that monitor weather systems from around, above and within. Their current arsenal of research tools includes special lasers, unmanned drones and diverse ecosystem of probes built to avoid and withstand a hurricane's punishing force. </p> <p>As Hurricane Irene heads towards the eastern shore of America, InnovationNewsDaily takes a look at seven of the most advanced technologies that will record the fury and behavior of these massive storms. </p> <p><i>Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/News_Innovation" mce_href="http://twitter.com/#!/News_Innovation">@News_Innovation</a>, or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/InnovationNewsDaily" mce_href="http://www.facebook.com/InnovationNewsDaily">Facebook</a>.</i></p> <p><i></i></p>

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<p><i><br></i></p> <p><b>Dropsondes</b></p> <p>Like sensor-filled torpedoes, researchers eject these tube-shaped probes out of storm chasing planes and directly into the hurricane itself. Dropsondes record basic atmospheric conditions like temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction, but they do it in 3-D as they fall through the storm. </p> <p>A GPS signal lets researchers follow the probe as it plunges towards the ocean, and a transmitter lets them receive the data in real time. These devices have been part of the scientific arsenal for a number of years, but they are continually updated with new technology.</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><b>DC-8 Flying Laboratory </b></p> <p>The Swiss Army knife of hurricane research, this old school plane has enough new school tech to keep any researcher busy for quite some time. </p> <p>Up in the nose, the plane houses the sensors that measure basic stats like wind speed or pressure. Along the hull, there's special radar that analyzes the characteristics of the rain fall. Past the wings, specialized lasers probe the shape of hurricane winds and the nature of the particles caught in the storm. Sensors on the ends of the wings measure the clouds themselves, and scientists can fire dropsondes out of the back end of the plane. </p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><b>NASA Global Hawk UAV</b></p> <p>Following a cue from their friends in the Air Force, NASA has integrated unmanned aerial vehicles into their hurricane research tool kit. The NASA scientists have converted a Global Hawk surveillance drone into a flying platform kitted out with a whole mess of sensors, turning it into the UAV version of their DC-8. </p> <p>A radiometer in the nose of the drone measures temperature and water vapor distribution in 3-D, while instruments on the wings and the engine record lightning and other electricity in the storm. The drone can even fire miniature versions of the dropsondes used in the larger planes. </p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><b>NASA Weather Satellites</b></p> <p>While dropsondes monitor hurricanes from within, the NASA's satellite observe weather from a slightly more removed vantage point. Currently, NASA has a number of different missions watching the weather patterns that ultimately produce storms like Irene. </p> <p>From 250 miles above the surface of the Earth, TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) uses a mixture of infrared, microwave and radar beams through cloud cover to measure rain all along the tropics. And while TRMM watches the rain, the SeaWinds instrument on QuikSCAT uses microwave radar to monitor wind speed and wind direction in the tropical storms that eventually grow into hurricanes. </p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><b>SMART (Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Testing)Radar</b></p> <p> Unfortunately for scientists, hurricanes don't always form in easily accessible areas with previously established radar sites. For those out of the way spots, meteorologists can turn to the SMART (Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Testing) Radar. Basically a giant radar system mounted on the back of a truck, SMART Radar gives researchers the flexibility to deploy storm-penetrating Doppler Radar at the time and place of their choosing.</p> <p>Operated by Texas A&amp;M University, Texas Tech University and the University of Oklahoma, the SMART radar system often works with arrays of fixed sensors to provide a more comprehensive view of hurricanes and tornadoes wherever they may strike.</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><b>VORTRAC (Vortex Objective Radar Tracking and Circulation)</b></p> <p>Much like movies and television, hurricane tracking has gone 3-D. VORTRAC software lets researchers get a 3-dimensional view of approaching hurricanes that updates every six minutes. Unlike a conventional radar image, the 3-D image produced by VORTRAC allows scientists to measure the changing power of hurricanes in near real time. </p> <p>VORTRAC works by linking the 20 or so different Doppler radar arrays that track hurricanes heading towards the U.S. Together, those radar sites generate information that no single site could produce on its own. VORTRAC only works during the 10-15 hours before the hurricane makes landfall, but that's an important window. In 2004, Hurricane Charley's wind speed increased by 30 miles per hour in only six hours, a significant increase that left many in Florida caught off guard. </p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><b>Stick-net Probes</b></p> <p>Rather than relying on large, expensive single platforms like satellites, large Doppler radar sites and planes bristling with sensors, the hurricane researchers at Texas Tech University use swarms of smaller sensor sites to study powerful storms. The stick-net probe is the workhorse of their guerrilla approach to science. Able to measure basic atmospheric conditions like wind speed and barometric pressure, an array of stick-net probes can provide as much info as systems many times their cost and complexity.</p> <p>Built to withstand the high winds and flooding associated with hurricanes, the stick-net probes first entered service in 2006, and have monitored hurricanes and tornadoes since then. Based on a tripod stand, the stick-net probes travel well, allowing them to work in concert with other mobile systems like the SMART Radar. </p>

Top 7 Hurricane Research Devices