A robot went inside Hurricane Fiona. The wild footage is unlike anything you’ve seen before
Last year, scientists decided to send robots into the eye of the storm - to show us what tempestuous hurricanes look like on the inside. The drones would also improve experts' understanding of how hurricanes intensify into dangerous storms with gale and deadly flooding.
Recently, the collaboration between the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Saildrone, a company that develops sailing drones, did exactly that. They sent a robot into Hurricane Fiona, the tropical storm that has deluged Puerto Rico and is now headed towards Canada's east coast, Mashable reported.
The released footage is unlike anything you've seen before.
The robot, SD 1078, is battling 50-foot waves and winds measured over 100 mph to collect critical scientific data - providing a distinct view of one of Earth's most "destructive" forces, as per a press release.
Take a look at Category 4 https://t.co/yZhSFvHREU— NOAA Research (@NOAAResearch) ) September 23, 2022
Improve forecasting and helping human life
SD 1078 is one of the seven hurricane saildrones operating in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico during this hurricane season, gathering data around the clock to help understand the physical processes of hurricanes. According to the release, the data collected by the saildrone could vastly improve forecasting, thereby reducing the loss of human life by enabling better "preparedness" in coastal communities.
Inside the storm, SD 1078 is sailing at sustained speeds over 9 mph. It even reached a peak speed of 39.7 mph, at one moment, before surfing down a massive 55-foot wave.
"Saildrone is once again demonstrating its ability to provide critical ocean data in the most extreme weather conditions. Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and loss of life," Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder, and CEO said in a statement. "The data Saildrone vehicles are gathering will help the science community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare."
The robust robot provides data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), Saildrone’s partners in this mission.
Need of the hour
SD 1078 is the fourth Saildrone USV to engage with Hurricane Fiona, which was still a tropical storm when it passed over SD 1083, stationed 400 nm east of Montserrat.
The vehicle recorded waves up to 46 feet high and wind speeds over 70 mph, which dropped quickly to as low as 10 mph when SD 1031 was in the eye of the storm. Inside it, SD 1031 recorded a minimum central pressure of 986 Mb. SD 1040, stationed north of Puerto Rico, recorded wind speeds over 60 mph and 40-foot waves on the edge of the storm.
Intensifying storms have become increasingly common now. "The frequency of rapid-intensification events has increased over the past four decades, and this increase has been linked to climate change," Jim Kossin, an atmospheric research scientist at NOAA, explained in an agency Q&A last year.
At this point, the data collected by the multiple saildrones interacting with Hurricane Fiona will provide solid and invaluable information to better understand the formation of weather systems.
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