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NASA Science

NASA Preparing For Largest Hurricane Study Ever 28

anonymous writes "Does lightning predict the intensity of a tropical storm? What role does dust from the Sahara play? Do hurricanes form from the large-scale environment around a tropical storm or from small-scale formations 100 kilometers from the center? A team from NASA, NOAA, and NSF plan to find out. Starting Saturday, the team will conduct the largest hurricane study every undertaken. Among other things, a better understanding of hurricanes has ramifications for weather prediction, building codes, insurance policies, and disaster planning." One recent study found that hurricane creation is affected by plankton in the ocean.
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NASA Preparing For Largest Hurricane Study Ever

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  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:52AM (#33239918)

    hurricane creation is affected by plankton in the ocean.

    Plankton's latest evil plan shows the most promise yet.

    • by macraig ( 621737 )

      Did you double up on the lines of coke this morning?

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Wow... a SpongeBob reference on Slashdot? Really? Your kids must be watching that show way too much.

      At least, I hope that's the reason...

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        Right, 'cause no Slashdotters engage in any activities that general society might consider "childish"... we're completely above that! *hides his anime, D&D, video games, and comic books*

        • Right, 'cause no Slashdotters engage in any activities that general society might consider "childish"... we're completely above that! *hides his anime, D&D, video games, and comic books*

          One of the greatest benefits of having kids is that you can do stuff like that and everybody thinks you do it for them. A few weeks ago, I acquired a free pile of cinder blocks and built a fort in my backyard. Unfortunately, I had to build it myself as my slave labor is still too young and weak.

          • I've thought the same thing myself. I can peruse the toy isle as much as I like. Sometimes it's my daughter who gets impatient with me!

    • So they're going to start with a giant study trying to find correlations (like the plankton one above), and much much later figure out what the causation is. And as always, the correlations will be published first to feed a hungry media. As these come back, remember that Correlation implies but does not prove Causation.

      • And as always, the correlations will be published first to feed a hungry media.

        Fortunately, there's plenty of plankton for everyone!

  • Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by locallyunscene ( 1000523 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:57AM (#33240030)
    They should make a documentary about it. This could be the kind of thing that will pay off for years to come, despite a large up front expense.
    • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:14AM (#33240372) Homepage

      Of the many hundreds of claims about global warming made in An Inconvenient Truth, the overwhelming majority reflected the current consensus views of the scientific community. But the link between global warming and hurricanes -- the one that they focused so strongly on that they put it on the cover -- does not.

      In the US, for example, we're mainly concerned about Atlantic basin hurricanes. Look at this season -- record-hot sea surface temperatures covering an unthinkably huge swath of the Atlantic. And it's La Nina which generally keeps down wind shear. So why the merely "average" season so far? Two main reasons. One, the weather patterns have created a long train of upper-level lows, which create extra shear and help entrain dry air into developing systems. And two, there's been unusually high atmospheric instability (read: inversion layers). Both of these things are more common in a warming world (as well as shear in general). The reason for the instability, for example, is because a warming world leads to a greater difference in land temperatures and water temperatures, leading to plumes of hot air over land. When these move over the colder marine layer, you have an inversion layer on your hands. Tropical cyclones are powered by warm, moist air rising. If you have a upper-level layer that wants to descend, you're going to rob the system of energy.

      The science of hurricane prediction is still rough, and there is no consensus on just how a warming climate will affect hurricanes. However, there is general acceptance that it will reduce the frequency of system development by reducing the windows of opportunity, but will allow for higher strength and faster-developing systems within those windows.

    • I'd like to see an attempt at a documentary about the effects of butterflies on hurricanes
  • Plankton (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrFurious5150 ( 1189479 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:26AM (#33240660)
    The plankton thing is interesting. I wonder how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico affected the plankton population there. It would be ironic if a man-made environmental disaster actually reduced the possibility of a natural disaster.
    • Hurricanes don't form in the Gulf, so the plankton population and the effects of the spill thereof are irrelevant.

      • by sheddd ( 592499 )
        You could argue that most of the hurricanes in the gulf start as tropical depressions in the atlantic, but FTA the presence of plankton increases the sea surface temperature, therefore strengthening storms; relevant.
  • Anyone remember the good ol' days when NASA explored space?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by whit3 ( 318913 )

      National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA,
      has always had an eye on weather, because it's a key
      item in aeronautics.

      I don't want them to drop this particular one of their
      It could be argued that G. W. Bush DID want them to drop
      the ball on weather. It's a crazy-eddie thing.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982