Hurricanes Essay, Research Paper
When a natural disaster occurs, time can be our greatest ally in order to preempt the damage it might cause. The process of predicting an upcoming disaster has been ongoing for hundreds of years. However, only recently have we been able to step away from the shadow of oracle bones and fortunetellers and into the light of science and technology. With modern science at their disposal, scientists and weather forecasters alike must determine not only how to better gather information, but how to interoperate and apply this data to save lives and property. Hurricanes have been a destructive natural force for thousands of years; however, modern technology now allows humans a chance to lessen the blow that they might cause.
A hurricane is a migratory tropical cyclone that originates over oceans in certain regions near the equator. By most accounts, the modern era of hurricane forecasting began in the 1960s, when satellites could first monitor a storm s progression from space. In the United States, we receive our official hurricane forecasts from the National Hurricane Center in southern Florida. An official forecast results from the study and analysis of complex computer models, along with general knowledge of hurricane formation and movement. Ever since the advent of hurricane forecasting, the science has continuously become more accurate because of new technology and human experience. The National Hurricane Center has even estimated that hurricane forecasting has become more accurate by one percent every year for the past 10 years, with this trend continuing into the future. However, computer models are only as good as the information that is used to create them.
The single area in which improvement could most greatly effect the prediction of hurricanes is aircraft reconnaissance. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, which is a United States Air Force Reserve unit known as the Hurricane Hunters, has flown aircraft into hurricanes since 1948 to gather data for forecasters to use in their computer models. Recently, in order to further our knowledge of hurricanes, the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has instituted a program of increased development for forecasting instruments. The pilots that fly into and around storms can now employ advanced technologies such as Global Positioning System Dropwindsondes, instruments that measure air pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction to better assist computer models. As they fall through the storm, these advanced devices send back invaluable information to the airplane. Other emerging technologies include remote sensing devices such as airborne Doppler radar, which measures the intensity and direction of precipitation, C-band scatterometer, which measures wind speeds and stepped frequency microwave radiometer, which can take measurements using microwaves. Over the years, these new technologies will help to increase the accuracy of hurricane prediction. However, all forecasts are not made solely by computer model.
Rather than relying on computers as their only source of information, meteorologists also use their own knowledge about hurricanes in their forecasts. Hurricanes generally travel in a shape similar to that of a parabola, but their directional behavior depends on location. Hurricanes in the northern hemisphere usually travel first in a northwesterly direction, whereas in the higher latitudes they turn toward the northeast. In the southern hemisphere, the usual path of the hurricane is initially to the southwest and subsequently to the southeast. However, technology is playing a larger role in hurricane prediction every year, especially in long-range forecasting situations. These models are based on such information as the strong connection between hurricane activity and atmospheric factors such as El Nino, which is the warming of the Pacific Ocean. Seasonal forecasting of hurricane activity cannot tell scientists where or when a particular storm will strike, but it can project overall features of a hurricane season, providing useful information to those involved in their prediction. Also, the more information that we gather each year makes forecasting future hurricanes more accurate and simplistic for all those involved.
Although the science of predicting hurricanes has vastly improved over the years, meteorologists can never be completely accurate in their forecasts. Information from satellites can help to track a hurricane s movement with extreme precision, giving scientists the ability to see which areas are being affected by the storm. However, the most valuable information is always obtained from the hurricane hunters that fly into them. Modern probes can give more real-time information about a hurricane then was ever dreamed possible 20 years ago, allowing scientists to better understand these storms and where they might travel next. The years of past hurricane documentation are beneficial to meteorologists as well, aiding them in predicting when, where and how a hurricane might strike. Unfortunately, hurricanes are not a static force. Their ever-changing nature means that we will never be 100 percent accurate in our predictions. However, it is this inadequacy that drives us to continuously improve our methods of forecasting one of nature s most deadly forces.