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NASA Will Launch Swarms Of Cyclone Tracking Microsatellites Into Space

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With storms likely to become stronger and more destructive, NASA is looking to use a fleet of microsatellites to closely monitor the development of weather patterns in different parts of the world.

The American space agency announced on Friday, Nov. 11, that it has already begun preparations for the launch of its Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System mission next month.

The project's goal is to accurately measure different factors that lead to the formation of hurricanes and tropical cyclones. It will also collect data on the intensity of weather disturbances, track their movement across the globe and even calculate the chances of storm surges occurring.

NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen explained that the constellation of eight satellites set to be used for the CYGNSS mission will provide scientists with information that a single orbital probe cannot. It can measure the surface wind speeds inside of hurricanes, as well as those of tropical cyclones, using high time-resolutions.

Data from the microsatellites can be used to improve our understanding of deadly storms and even help predict how these disturbances form.

Monitoring A Hurricane's Inner Core Using CYGNSS

The CYGNSS probes will make use of Global Positioning System to closely monitor the surface roughness of oceans around the world. Researchers can then use the information they collect to determine the strength and intensity of storms based on surface wind speeds.

Compared to earlier weather probes, the CYGNSS satellites are capable of penetrating the heavy rain that surrounds a hurricane's center in order to collect data on its interior.

This inner core is what serves as a hurricane's engine, using the process of evaporation to draw energy from warm surface waters. Once it gathers enough latent heat from water vapors, the hurricane will then release it into the Earth's atmosphere through precipitation and condensation.

Previous attempts at collecting data on a hurricane's interior have been unsuccessful as many conventional weather satellites can't get through its heavy wall of rain.

Chris Ruf, a climate and space sciences professor at the University of Michigan and lead researcher for the CYGNSS program, said that while scientists can gather data on the wind outside of storm cells, there is not enough information on the cyclone processes inside their critical eyewall.

The CYGNSS probes can predict what goes on inside a hurricane's inner core, but they need to undergo continuous experimental validation in order to provide more accurate measurements, Ruf said.

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