Of particular interest during hurricane season — which occurs from June 1 through Nov. 30 in the Atlantic region — is information on water temperature, which the gliders gather throughout the water column.
Each hurricane season, GCOOS works with teams in Florida, Mississippi and Texas to track and share data from a “glider picket line” in the Gulf. Part of the National Hurricane Glider Program, the picket line includes a series of gliders monitoring the ocean in the Gulf, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic that are programmed to collect information on ocean parameters from areas where tropical storms and hurricanes typically form or strengthen.
“The gliders aren’t there to chase storms, though having one pass over is a bonus for data collection,” said Whilden. “Instead, we’re focused on collecting in-situ data within ocean features ahead of storms so that information can be assimilated into forecast models to predict the path and intensity of storms.”
Making hurricane predictions is all about having data — and being able to access accurate information quickly and easily. GCOOS hosts a dashboard that tracks gliders piloted by the U.S. Navy, the University of South Florida, the University of Southern Mississippi, Texas A&M University’s Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.
Funds for these efforts are provided by the U.S. IOOS program and Shell Renewables and Energy Solutions.
“As we move into hurricane season, it’s important that we work together to gather as much data as we can through a coordinated system,” said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, GCOOS Executive Director. “It’s great to see public-private partnerships making this happen.”
“After the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief but the work never stopped,” Whilden said. “In the off-season we've been assessing damage, making repairs, servicing equipment, and calibrating sensors so that the gliders are fully functional ahead of the 2021 season.”
For the 2021 hurricane season, NOAA is predicting a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms with winds 39 mph or higher for 2021. Six to 10 could become hurricanes (with winds 74 mph or greater), including three to five storms rated category 3 or higher with wind speeds of 111 mph or greater.