(From The Standard-Times/ By Jennette Barnes) — The next time a hurricane comes barreling toward New England, we may have a better idea of whether it will intensify to a Category 5, or fizzle out and bring less damage than everyone feared.
Just thank the underwater hurricane patrol.
This hurricane season, an unmanned submersible named Blue is keeping watch over an area between Martha’s Vineyard and New Jersey, collecting data shared around the globe. Named in honor of blue whales, the torpedo-shaped glider operated by UMass Dartmouth is part of a string of gliders deployed by the U.S. government, universities and others on the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
The gliders record ocean conditions that can be used to sharpen the forecast not of where a hurricane will go — the so-called “cone of uncertainty” — but of how bad it will be. That could mean the difference between evacuating and staying put. “Knowing the ocean is important,” said Wendell Brown, a professor at UMD’s School for Marine Science and Technology and the principal investigator on the SMAST glider research.
Researchers working on the glider project say predictions of the path of a hurricane have improved tremendously, but its severity not so much. “The errors have remained very large,” said Gustavo Goni, a meteorologist and researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He said scientists linked heat in the water to the intensification of hurricanes 15 or 20 years ago, and the glider research takes the next step. “Now what we’re trying to assess is how much of a role the ocean plays,” said Goni, who works for NOAA’s research arm in Miami.
The SMAST team launched…