In Benefits of GPS Tracking

Researchers use GPS technology to warn people of severe storms before they occur.

The current winter season is proving to be a record-breaking one with harsh winds, severe snowstorms and ice storms, and possibly more to come. This is just another reason to add to the existing reasons of why advanced technology like GPS tracking is so important.

Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently announced how they are using modern technology for predicting severe weather patterns before they occur.

The method researchers are using is through piggybacking of technology. They are accessing GPS satellite stations that are located in various spots in Southern California, and using these networks to gather information for upcoming winter storms. This is possible because at many satellite stations, they have the ability to measure tectonic plates with sensors for seismic and meteorological uses. The same technology can be used for potentially hazardous events and perils, like a severe snowstorm.

Much of the communication being used at these satellite stations is being updated, providing even more capabilities for winter weather warnings and proper forecasting. Angelyn W. Moore, a researcher and scientist working for the Space Geodesy Group and JPL’s Geodynamics, had this to say about the signals from the ground GPS satellites:

“A GPS receiver fundamentally is measuring the amount of time it takes signals to travel from the GPS satellites to the receiving antenna on the ground. That travel time is modified by the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. The upshot is that whenever we measure a geodetic-quality GPS station’s position, we are also measuring the delay due to water vapor.”

Moore also told reporters that the new storm system sensors are tracked in more detail and more efficiently due to weather balloons that are launched in a more dense network. It means getting snowstorm and winter weather information earlier and more accurately than before. There are two signals used from the GPS ground movement and small movements with accelerometers. Combined, it provides a total picture of the ground motion.

The technology has already been used, back in July when a summer monsoon rain was predicted in Southern California. These flash flood warnings were sent out after the sensors picked up on an unusual disturbance.

During the winter, many locations in the U.S. deal with severe snowstorms and freezing temperatures, often coming with very little warning. From fatalities to vehicle accidents, people living in these locations struggle with less-than-stellar forecasts. Often times, the storm has already begun before news outlets announce these big storms.

The technology can be used for all different types of storms, ranging from snow and rain, to heavy winds and monsoons.  With GPS tracking technology and new sensors, researchers hope they can get these warnings out to residents much more quickly.

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