Now that hurricane season is at a peak, its a good time to talk about the role GPS is playing in monitoring hurricanes. Hurricane season begins on June 1 each year and extends through November. Its official apex day is September 10th. Global Positioning Technology has been used for GPS navigation and GPS tracking for years, and now it is being used for hurricane warnings.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has partnered with NASA in order to develop a system for using GPS to hunt down hurricanes. The technology is using advanced measurements in order to map out hurricane wind speeds. So far it has been in the testing stage and is showing to be effective at determining the approximate speed and location of various hurricanes. The intent is to provide early warnings for hurricanes and hopefully give people enough time to find a safe location.
GPS systems currently work great at collecting data and using satellite signals on clear days, but the signals aren’t as effective during such an intensive storm as a hurricane. This is why NOAA and NASA is working on a way to develop a GPS unit that can work even in heavy winds and rain. The new system is expected to detect tropical cyclone winds before they hit.
With the new technology, it measures wind speeds for accurate early warnings of hurricanes and other storms. Scientists working on the system believe it will help predict approaching storms much better than previous methods used. Not only will it know where and when the storm will hit, but the severity of it as well.
Stephen Katzberg, a researcher at NASA, told reporters that their current systems and only be used in the water and don’t work for land-based storms.
“It just measures the oceans surface winds,” he explained to CBSNews.com. “It could be any winds, even the Great Lakes. You need a large body of water.”
More specifically, it measures the interaction between surface waves generated by the storm and the radio signals that are reflecting off the water from the GPS satellites.
“As the surface gets rougher, the reflections get more disturbed and that’s what we measure,” Katzberg said.
This is what has led to the need for new technology. GPS isn’t going to replace other methods of measuring storms, like dropsonders, but it is going to be used alongside them. Essentially, GPS is not as accurate in terms of measuring hurricanes, but when used in conjunction with other methods, it should provide better data overall.
One new method being produced by NASA and NOAA is a storm-hunting plane, which is set to launch in 2016. It uses GPS satellite signals to monitor the global ocean surface wind speeds. This system is called the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS).
Hopefully soon, GPS will become the newest hurricane hunter and provide the earliest warning signs possible.