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Researchers are gathering data on Hurricane Dorian to improve forecasts
Katie Valentine

Researchers are gathering data on Hurricane Dorian to improve forecasts

A team of scientists from NOAA and the University of Oklahoma are heading to Florida this weekend to collect weather data during Hurricane Dorian. The goal of the research team, led by Michael Biggerstaff from OU and Sean Waugh from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), is to improve forecasts of damaging winds and deadly storm surge associated with hurricanes in addition to developing wind maps to inform new building codes.

“We want to help mitigate property damage by working with engineers and using our data to improve the building and construction codes needed to develop a more resilient national infrastructure in the future,” said Biggerstaff. 

The researchers will use mobile weather radars and a Mobile Mesonet — a truck with weather instruments attached that will take wind measurements and launch weather balloons — to collect data. The mobile radars are able to produce high resolution wind maps over a 60-by-60 square mile area during hurricane landfalls.

Mobile Mesonet

Mobile Mesonet

A truck with roof mounted instruments, called a mobile mesonet, will be used to record observations of Hurricane Dorian. Credit: Sean Waugh/ NOAA NSSL

The scientists hope this data will help them determine why hurricane winds can be so damaging, particularly to buildings and other structures. Wind gust, duration of extreme winds, the amount of water entering a building from the storm, and changes in wind direction all impact building damage. Different parts of the hurricane create greater gust factors than other parts, so the ability to understand all of the components of the hurricane will aid in the development of cost-effective building codes to mitigate future damage.  

In addition to this meteorological data, NOAA is also collecting data on ocean conditions during Hurricane Dorian. Gliders released into the Atlantic Ocean earlier this summer are in the path of the storm, and are continuously collecting data on ocean temperature and salt content — factors that contribute to the intensity of hurricanes. Researchers aboard NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft are also collecting data that is fed into forecast models as well as used for research to improve these models. 

For updates on Hurricane Dorian, visit noaa.gov/dorian.

This story was adapted from a press release by the University of Oklahoma. 

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