Researchers work to gain better understanding of hurricanes

When Hurricane Ida moved inland along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in late August 2021, a team of researchers set out to study winds associated with the damaging storm. The group, including scientists from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, captured unique datasets, marking Hurricane Ida as possibly one of the best-observed hurricanes at landfall.

Here’s a brief overview of the ways scientists were able to gain a better understanding of Hurricane Ida:

  1. Continuous weather balloon launches provide more data

NOAA is leading efforts to launch as many weather balloons with instruments attached as possible into hurricanes and tropical storms. Researchers are particularly interested in launching balloons into the eye and innermost part of a hurricane to measure several atmospheric conditions, like temperature, humidity, and wind.

Instruments launched into the eye of Hurricane Ida identified a recording-breaking amount of moisture in the atmosphere. The data provided key context to the devastating flooding that impacted New York days later.

  1. Multiple data sources help scientists understand the storm’s extreme winds 

NOAA NSSL researchers collaborated with the University of Oklahoma and Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies to deploy a variety of surface observation units. The goal was to capture a variety of data on extreme winds to improve building codes to mitigate damage to homes and other structures.

Researchers deployed the Portable In Situ Precipitation Station (PIPS), NSSL’s Mobile Mesonet, weather balloons, and OU’s Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar (SMART) mobile weather radars. The teams strategized, gathered critical information about Hurricane Ida, and safely deployed their instrumentation. The teams successfully gathered wind data as Hurricane Ida came ashore and moved inland.

A mobile radar truck parked on a bridge with a cloudy sky behind it.
University of Oklahoma’s Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar (SMART) mobile weather radar gathering data during Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Addison Alford/CIMMS)
  1. Researchers captured the evolution of Hurricane Ida

Researchers safely recorded the complete evolution of Hurricane Ida. Dual-Doppler radar from the SMART radars shows the system making landfall, with maximum wind gusts of 172 mph. Data collected by the teams will allow an opportunity to examine a variety of weather processes essential to understanding the evolution of Ida’s wind field and rainfall distributions. Currently, Hurricane Ida is one of the best well-sampled landfalling hurricanes by NOAA and university researchers. NOAA NSSL researchers will continue to gather hurricane observations in the future in an attempt to gain a better understanding of hazards associated with such storms.

A screenshot of colorful data plots showing data from Hurricane Ida.
The data plot shows real-time analyses from the combined data of both OU SRs. The real-time analyses were conducted by Addison Alford (CIMMS) and Gordon Carrie (OU School of Meteorology). The left panel shows the maximum wind observed east of New Orleans by the SRs at 1500 meters above the ground. The right panel shows the time at which that maximum wind occurred. The plot highlights the wind maximum associated with the “outer eyewall” observed during Ida’s landfall. (Screenshot provided)
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Researchers travel to Gulf of Mexico to study Hurricane Laura

A team of research scientists from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma have traveled to the Texas-Louisiana border near the Gulf of Mexico to collect data during the landfall of Hurricane Laura.

We encourage people to visit the National Weather Service website for the latest forecast. weather.gov

The team, led by OU School of Meteorology Professor Michael Biggerstaff and NSSL Research Scientist Sean Waugh, is working closely with colleagues from Texas Tech University, the University of Florida, the Center for Severe Weather Research, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Data collected by the team will be shared in real-time with NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Offices and emergency managers in areas affected by the storm.

NOAA NSSL deployed a truck with weather instruments attached, known as a Mobile Mesonet, along with small portable weather platforms. The Portable In Situ Precipitation Stations, or PIPS, have sensors to measure temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed, and direction. In addition, PIPS determine the distribution of particle sizes by using an instrument called a Parsivel disdrometer to measure the number and size of any object that falls through it.

 

Research vehicles parked in front of a hotel.
The NOAA NSSL Mobile Mesonet and OU SMART-Rs. (NOAA)

 

Team members deployed include OU Data Scientist Gordon Carrie, and Cooperative Institute Research Scientist Kim Elmore, with doctoral students Addison Alford and Noah Brauer and undergraduate students Robert Moore and Jeffrey Stevenson.

The OU researchers will collect data using mobile radar units known as SMART (Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching) radars, operated through the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies and the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences.

The radars are used to map the maximum winds observed during landfall, determine the duration of severe winds at each location within their domain, and evaluate the impact of tornado-like mesovortices, small-scale rotational features found in storms created by surface heating. These mesovortices are often found on the inner edge of the eyewall during landfall.

Combined data from these tools can provide more insight into landfalling hurricanes, especially the severe winds hurricanes bring and the damage they may cause.

A researcher standing in a field holding a weather balloon above his head, waiting to release it.
NOAA NSSL Research Scientist Sean Waugh releases a weather balloon into the atmosphere. (NOAA)

For example, damage to homes and businesses is associated with more than just the maximum wind speed. Wind gusts, duration of extreme winds, water intrusion, and the change in wind direction experienced by a structure during a wind event all impact building damage. Different parts of the hurricane create greater gust factors than other parts.

The project is sponsored by the National Institute for Standards and Technology as part of their National Windstorm Research Initiative.

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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 the landfall of 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 landfalling 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.

For the full story, visit NOAA Research.

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2012 Atlantic hurricane season to provide CI-FLOW research opportunity

Hurricane Irene in 2011

The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season will provide a valuable research opportunity for the Coastal and Inland-Flooding Observation and Warning Project (CI-FLOW). The goal during the 2012 hurricane season is to produce realistic simulations of total water level in real time for coastal storms. National Weather Service forecasters will have access to CI-FLOW during these events to help them evaluate the system for application in the flood and flash-flood warning process.

CI-FLOW is a demonstration project that captures the complex interaction between rainfall, river flows, waves, tides and storm surge, and how these factors affect water levels in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse rivers and the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.

CI-FLOW was tested in August 2011 as Hurricane Irene made landfall near Morehead City, NC.  CI-FLOW total water-level simulations were compared with water levels observed during the storm. Researchers found a high level of agreement in both the timing and water-level heights for the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse coastal watershed.

The CI-FLOW project is motivated by NOAA’s critical forecast need for detailed water-level predictions in coastal areas and has a vision to transition CI-FLOW research findings and technologies to other U.S. coastal watersheds.

This real-time demonstration will offer valuable insight on the accuracy and utility of total water level predictions for communities in the coastal plain of the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse rivers and the Pamlico Sound. Real-time simulations of coastal water levels for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season are available on the CI-FLOW website (http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/ciflow/). The site also includes an introductory video that highlights the flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and the response from Sea Grant and NOAA partners. (http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/ciflow/)

The NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory with support from the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program leads the unique interdisciplinary team including the North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas Sea Grant Programs; University of Oklahoma; Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Seahorse Consulting; NWS Forecast Offices in Raleigh, and Newport/Morehead City; NWS Southeast River Forecast Center; NOAA’s Coastal Services Center; NOAA in the Carolinas; NOAA Southeast and Caribbean Regional Team (SECART); NOAA-Integrated Ocean Observing System; Department of Homeland Security, Center of Excellence-Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure and Emergency Management; Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence SouthEast; Coast Survey Development Laboratory; and NWS Office of Hydrologic Development.

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CI-FLOW produced accurate total water level predictions from Irene

Hurricane Irene heads for the Outer BanksThe Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning (CI-FLOW) project began producing real-time 84-hour simulations of total water level in coastal North Carolina from Hurricane Irene on Tuesday, August 23.  Hurricane Irene made landfall near Morehead City, N.C.

CI-FLOW total water level simulations were compared with water levels observed during the storm.  Researchers found a high level of agreement in both the timing and water level heights for the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse River coastal watershed.

CI-FLOW is the first system to capture the complex interaction between waves, tides, river flows, and storm surge to produce total water level simulations.

CI-FLOW’s unique interdisciplinary team is lead by the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and includes North Carolina, South Carolina, & Texas Sea Grant Programs, National Sea Grant, Renaissance Computing Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oklahoma, NWS Offices in Raleigh & Newport/Morehead City, NWS Southeast River Forecast Center, NOAA Coastal Services Center, NOAA in the Carolinas, Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence SouthEast, NWS Office of Hydrologic Development, and National Ocean Service Coast Survey Development Laboratory.

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Video released on improved flood forecasting with CI-FLOW

CI-FLOW video on NOAA Weather Partners YouTube site.

The collaborative Coastal and Inland-Flooding Observation and Warning Project (CI-FLOW) released a new video demonstrating how their prototype total water level simulation system can help improve NWS flood forecasting and save lives of people residing and working in coastal watersheds.

The video can be seen at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J276vYNcyxA&feature=youtu.be&hd=1

“CI-FLOW tracks a raindrop from the sky, to the summit, to the sea,” explains Dr. Suzanne Van Cooten, hydrometeorologist working at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).

Currently, there is no framework that exchanges information between atmospheric, river, and ocean modeling systems to help forecasters predict the individual elements of a coastal storm including precipitation, ocean waves, tidal fluctuations, storm surge and river flows.

This problem is being addressed by the CI-FLOW project with a prototype system to integrate these different modeling systems to produce total water level simulations that account for river flow, tides, waves, and storm surge for coastal North Carolina.

In the video, Former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt described what it was like when Hurricane Floyd hit the coast of North Carolina in 1999.

“We were used to thinking about a hurricane being a wind event.  We had no idea we were going to have a flood,” he reflected.  “We weren’t able to predict it.  We didn’t know that water was going to be coming in up the rivers, we didn’t know how much rain was falling.”

As a hurricane approaches the land, heavy rainfall covers the area.  Excessive run off causes rivers to rise.  Fierce winds can push ocean water upstream.  When rivers meet the ocean waters, massive flooding can occur.  CI-FLOW is intended to help communities become more resilient by providing information to help individuals make better decisions so they can respond and recover from the hazards of local storms.

CI-FLOW researchers hope to give the integrated total water level prediction system its first real-time test during the 2010 hurricane season, and will watch with interest as NOAA updates the Atlantic hurricane season outlook this Thursday. This scheduled update coincides with the approaching historical peak of the hurricane season.

NOAA, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas Sea Grant Programs, University of Oklahoma, and Centers for Ocean Sciences Educational Excellence Southeast were sponsors of the video project.  NOAA NSSL leads the interdisciplinary multi-institutional team of CI-FLOW researchers.

Visit http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/ciflow for more information.

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2010 Atlantic hurricane season to provide CI-FLOW research opportunity

Hurricane FloydThe 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will provide a valuable research opportunity for the Coastal and Inland-Flooding Observation and Warning Project (CI-FLOW). The goal for the 2010 hurricane season is to demonstrate, in real time, that CI-FLOW can produce realistic simulations of total water level for an actual storm event.

CI-FLOW is a system that combines weather, river, and ocean observations with data from numerical models to produce total water level simulations for the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse Rivers and the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.

The newly developed CI-FLOW computing environment will collect hourly multi-sensor quantitative precipitation estimates from NSSL’s Q2 system and gridded quantitative precipitation forecast products from NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. The data will be fed into the CI-FLOW coupled model framework, which links the NWS HL-RDHM (Hydrologic Laboratory Research Distributed Hydrologic Model) to the ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) ocean model.

Currently, the CI-FLOW HL-RDHM routinely generates 10-day forecasts of river discharge for multiple points in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse River basins. At four handoff points, the ADCIRC model will use the HL-RDHM discharge to begin its series of calculations to produce a 5-day forecast of total water level for the ADCIRC CI-FLOW domain.

This real-time demonstration will offer valuable insight on the accuracy and utility of total water level predictions for communities in the coastal plain of the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse Rivers and the Pamlico Sound.

NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) leads the interdisciplinary multi-institutional team of CI-FLOW researchers.

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NSSL partners to provide hurricane scenario training session

2010 National Hurricane ConferenceNSSL researchers are partnering with the National Weather Service (NWS) Warning Decision Training Branch (WDTB) and National Sea Grant at the University of Oklahoma to facilitate a training session called “Communicating/Interpreting Crucial Weather Info During a Hurricane Impact” at the 2010 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Fla. on March 30, 2010. Participants will be exposed to an authentic data stream of NWS weather and water information issued before, during and after a tropical system affecting the US. The scenario is designed to offer a perspective on how different audiences receive NWS information, how this information is conveyed to NOAA and NWS stakeholders, and what additional interaction or information each audience needs and values.

Data from Tropical Storm Ernesto in 2006 will be the focus of the training session. Participants will be assigned to one of three scenario rooms, one functioning as an actual NWS Weather Forecast Office, another as a television station, and the third as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC). To simulate operations as realistically as possible, the EOC room will be led by Emergency Managers from North Carolina. The television room will be led by broadcast meteorologists from South Carolina and Alabama who have consulted with their peers in North Carolina.

The three scenario rooms will be able to communicate between each other to simulate real-world communication pathways. The NWS room will be “issuing” watches and warnings using the NWS Weather Event Simulator. The EOC room will use a mock-up of the NC-First website and North Carolina emergency procedures for response and recovery. In the media room, visuals, text, and broadcasts will be created using actual industry software and technology to provide a live feed of the “on-air broadcaster” to the NWS and EOC rooms.

Participants will be assigned to a scenario room that simulates operations outside of their area of expertise and/or daily job-related duties. This “out-of-role” strategy provides each participant an opportunity to see how information is conveyed and received by another stakeholder and gain insight on what additional information might be useful. One primary outcome of the session is to capture how the NWS informational content and its communication can be improved as a hazard event evolves. A secondary outcome is to conduct a debrief session of all the participants and collect information to use in the creation of an online version of the hurricane scenario by leveraging NWS WDTB Distance Learning Courses.

This training session is laying the groundwork for a future scenario that will help to evaluate Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning Project (CI-FLOW) water products in the near future. CI-FLOW is a multi-agency interdisciplinary research project to evaluate and test new technologies to produce accurate and timely identification of inland and coastal floods in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river basins of North Carolina.

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