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Micro-Satellites Expected to Improve Hurricane Forecasts

CYGNSS (Image: NASA.gov)

NASA is set to launch CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System), a cluster of eight micro-satellites, Monday morning at 8:24 a.m. (EST). This constellation of satellites will monitor weather and ocean patterns closely, and could be the next big step forward to improving hurricane forecasts.

Hurricane forecasts have improved greatly, but we’re better at forecasting the potential path of hurricanes than potential strength. Hurricanes develop over open ocean waters, where we encounter a lot of data holes. We can get measurements through hurricane aircraft, but we still lack a lot of information on the storm through its development stages. These eight little satellites will help fill in the data holes, which would give more accurate data for models to work with and give us more insight into how hurricanes develop and are sustained.

The micro-satellites will receive signals from GPS satellites which position the satellites and also respond to the sea surface patterns. This way the satellites will be able to make frequent measurements of sea surface winds close to hurricanes as they intensify.

This will be the first time satellites are able to take observations of the inside of hurricanes, and could lead to more accurate intensity forecasts in the future.

UPDATE: The launch was delayed due to an issue with the launch vehicle. NASA hoped to reschedule the launch for Wednesday, December 13, however during routine tests they discovered an issue with flight parameter data too. This issue was fixed by uploading new flight data and the launch is now set to take place on Thursday December 15.