Seagliders Transmit Ocean Conditions Ahead of Hurricanes

With rescue and relief efforts underway, Hurricane Dorian is reportedly the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas and the second most powerful Atlantic storm on record. It is without question that hurricane intensity is increasing along with the devastation left in its path.

Each of the last five years have seen Category 5 storms pass through the Atlantic as sea surface temperatures rise – a widely accepted result of human-induced climate change in most, if not all, ocean basins.

As posted earlier this summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is using Seagliders to gather potentially life-saving data on hurricane conditions and intensity.

Since gliders can stay at sea for up to 8 months and in 40-foot seas, Seagliders let hurricane forecasters know what the ocean conditions are ahead of the storm.

As the news report (below) summarizes, Seagliders transmit:

  • water temperatures up to the a half mile (0.8 kilometers) deep and
  • water density determined by salt levels.

This data is transmitted in near real time which is a benefit to determining a hurricane’s intensity ahead of it reaching  shore. As Grant Rawson of the University of Miami Cooperative Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Studies emphasizes about glider technology,

It’s like using a rotary phone your whole life and then someone hands you an iPhone.

Studies have shown that implementing observational data like that collected from Seagliders can improve the intensity forecast by up to 50%. As an autonomous underwater vehicle with near real time data transmission, Seagliders are proving to be useful technology to potentially save lives through improved hurricane forecasting.

Check out the full NBC Nightly News segment.