Hurricane research is again at the forefront at Florida State University. A scientist just returned from a mission in Costa Rica that will open new frontiers in tropical meteorology.
Hurricane forecasts have improved dramatically in the past few decades, but trying to predict a hurricane in its formative stages is still problematic.
Bill Cottrill, FSU researcher and meteorologist, says, "It's still kind of guesswork at this point in time, but we did get very valuable information, especially out of a storm called Gert late in the project that could turn out to be our best case study."
The data is gathered with ER2 and NOAA P3 aircraft. The planes measure winds, lightning, ice and even have Doppler radars aboard.
Bill Cottrill says, "We're trying to gather information in these blossoming storms that we can use in modeling to find out which storms will come into hurricane status and which ones will fizzle."
The questions only start there. New research from MIT suggests global warming is possibly responsible for stronger hurricanes. Cottrill says there are still some questions to be answered.
Bill Cottrill says, "The observations in these storms have improved so much over the time frame of the paper that obviously intensity would be better handled now."
And each research mission solves pieces of the complex puzzle.
"The forecasts will be improved by the research we're doing in Costa Rica as well as around the globe."
Soon this work should eliminate unwanted surprises. FSU researchers may well be a part of another hurricane mission next year, with new research aimed at understanding hurricane formation.