Now they have a new partner, which will be on the water with eyes inside the storm from sea level. Yes, riding the waves beneath major hurricanes, experiencing conditions on the sea no human could endure.
It’s called a Saildrone, and its technology has reinvented the way we see the inside of hurricanes.
Saildrone, Inc. has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to better study hurricanes and the environment around them.
“What drives the intensity of the hurricanes is the transfer of heat and moisture from the ocean to atmosphere and the dynamics of how that occurs isn’t well-understood,” said Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of Saildrone, Inc. “So if we can measure how much is in the ocean and understand the physical principles of how that heat is transferred, that’s the piece the models are missing.”
By better understanding the surface data around the storm as well as within it, they hope they will be able to provide crucial data to help better understand the environment in which hurricanes form, as well as how they rapidly intensify.
Their hope is the data they collect will help hurricane forecasts in the future.
A 23-foot Saildrone can stay out to sea for up to a year. The vehicle is wind-powered and its instruments are solar-powered, giving it the ability to enter some of Earth’s most hostile environments.
They have already been used for mapping the ocean floor in Florida to help with storm surge forecasts, climate change missions and now they are navigating the high seas for hurricane research.
This hurricane season, five Saildrones were placed in the Atlantic in locations predetermined by NOAA, where they would have the best shot at sampling a hurricane.
When Hurricane Sam became Saildrone’s first hurricane mission, NOAA released the first-ever video from an uncrewed surface vehicle from inside a major hurricane.
“It was larger than we expected and hoped for but it was a great success. We emerged unscathed from that storm, which was a huge achievement from an engineering standpoint,” said Jenkins.
Sam was a Category 4 hurricane at the time of the mission, which left the Saildrone battling 50-foot waves and winds of more than 120 mph.
The Saildrone’s “hurricane wing” enables the vessel to navigate extreme winds and waves.
Sam has since moved north and is in the higher latitudes, bringing giant swells to places as far away as the Bahamas and eastern US. The storm is expected to impact Greenland by the end of the week.
And the Saildrone mission will continue. They hope to expand the program and eventually have Saildrones in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to sample storms and provide critical data from the surface of the storm, to supplement information gathered by the hurricane hunters who will continue to fly through them.
Many times the Saildrones will be sailing just beneath the hurricane planes.
“Both are vital,” said Jenkins. “The planes are trying to get an accurate pressure reading from the center of the storm, which they do very well. We are trying to get surface dynamics. We get about 20 additional measurements that include the air and sea integration principles that are crucial to the future understanding of hurricanes. So we are getting different kinds of variables.”
Hopefully the data will help improve forecasts in the future, ultimately saving lives from monster hurricanes and catastrophic flooding.
More than a month’s worth of rain this week
While the South has avoided tropical systems for the past couple of weeks, a deluge of tropical rains will soak the region this week, bringing the potential for flooding.
An abundance of Gulf moisture will feed into the Southeast region, ahead of a very, very slow-moving cold front, bringing scattered showers and storms to much of Alabama, Georgia, the Florida Panhandle and the Carolinas.
Showers will also reach as far north as the Ohio Valley. The highest amounts will primarily be across Alabama and Georgia through Friday.
“Due to the nature of the today’s convection, today will be more of the ‘primer’ day that saturates any ‘dry spots’,” said the National Weather Service in Atlanta.
However, as the week progresses and the ground becomes more saturated, the flood threat will increase.
“With little progression and storms continuing to train through the terrain, the risk for excessive rainfall and localized flash flooding will remain elevated,” said the Weather Prediction Center.
Places like Atlanta, Birmingham and Montgomery could see more than a month’s worth of rain in just a few days.
Atlanta typically averages 3.28 inches of rain in the month of October and could see as much as four to six inches by Friday.
Birmingham usually receives 3.34 inches of rain in October and could be looking at three to five inches by Friday.
There’s also an area the National Hurricane Center is keeping an eye on, which could end up bringing more rain to the Southeast.
It’s currently over the Bahamas, but will journey to the northwest during the next few days.
There’s only a 10% chance of development during the next five days, but it could bring some additional showers to the Georgia and Carolina coast by the end of the week.
The California oil spill is an environmental nightmare
Over the weekend, 3,000 barrels’ worth of oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean
about 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach, CA.
The spill now covers 8,300 acres, an area larger than Santa Monica.
Oil is now settling on the beaches nearby, and dead birds and fish are already washing on shore.
“The oil has infiltrated the entirety of the (Talbert) Wetlands. There’s significant impacts to wildlife there,” said Orange County Supervisory Katrina Foley. “These are wetlands that we’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers, with (a local) land trust, with all the community wildlife partners to make sure to create this beautiful, natural habitat for decades. And now in just a day, it’s completely destroyed.”
The waters just off the coast of Southern California are among the most fertile fish habitats found anywhere on earth. In an ironic twist, they are directly related to the oil rigs offshore, in place since the late 1960s.
A 2014 study
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed the 23 oil rigs located off the coastline and found the mean annual total fish production on this seafloor was as much as 27 times higher per square meter than similar depths around the world.
Ironically, they estimated the “complex hardscape habitat” created by oil platforms, structures and pipelines throughout the water column has supported an incredible influx of fish biodiversity.
A 2007 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay released 58,000 gallons of oil, (half of the current spill) and killed more than 7,000 birds.
After one of the driest years on record, it will take multiple years for some states to recover
Record drought, wildfires, and water shortages have beleaguered the western US, and the forecast is not much brighter.
A new water year began on October 1, with many in the west hoping for a better year to come.
Downtown Sacramento has officially gone 196 days without measurable rain, which breaks the record for the longest dry streak, set in 1880.
Bakersfield’s 2020-2021 water year was the fifth-driest on record. Precipitation records there date back to 1892.
Downtown San Francisco’s most recent water year ended as the second-driest on record, and record keeping goes back more than 170 years.
What is needed for California and other western states is multiple years of surplus rains, but also snow. Snow can often have a greater impact than rain when it comes to building up the water supply.
The 7 most devastating climate disasters of summer 2021
From a crippling drought and wildfires in the west, to back-to-back hurricanes and flooding in the east, this summer was slammed with weather disasters fueled even more by climate change.
And the disasters weren’t just in the United States.
Why everyone loves Fat Bear Week
We wanted to end this week on a fun note, and there’s nothing better than fat bears gorging on salmon in Alaska.
Fat Bear Week has grown increasingly popular during the last several years.