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Thursday, August 23 2018 22:21

Ocean Gliders & Hashtags: New Technology to Minimize Hurricane Damage

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Hurricanes, with their wind speeds of over 160 miles per hour, can absolutely destroy entire buildings, communities, and even nations. Year after year, we’ve seen massive storms devastate areas, ruin infrastructures, and take hundreds of lives. At the time of this writing, the rare (and dangerous) Hurricane Lane is bearing down on Hawaii.

Thankfully, as storms become more powerful, so too do the tools we use to protect ourselves. Right now there are hardworking researchers, inventors, and environmentalists hard at work developing all sorts of new technological innovations in order to minimize the damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The U.S. Navy Launches Ocean Gliders, Which Are Exactly As Cool As They Sound

According to the St. John Source, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of the Virgin Islands, Rutgers University, and the U.S. Navy are working together to launch and operative five unmanned Ocean Gliders in order to help monitor water for salinity, temperature, and other properties that could help warn us sooner when a massive storm is approaching.

"The gliders have no propellers, moving forward and steering by changing their buoyancy," said Doug Wilson, who spent 30 years as an NOAA Oceanographer and currently operates Caribbean Wind LLC.

Wilson, who also is a Senior Oceanographer and a Courtesy Faculty Member at the University of the Virgin Islands, states that the long-term goal of the project is to keep all five Ocean Gliders in the water year round.

At first, the five vessels will remain in the Virgin Island area throughout the hurricane season and will send data back for evaluation in real time to improve hurricane forecasting. The gliders are bright yellow and some of them are even equipped with devices to hear whale sounds. These vessels are currently considered to be the best available form of technology to collect information that allows scientists to monitor ocean conditions that affect hurricane intensity.

WTKR reports that across U.S. waters, there are approximately 50 of these gliders patrolling at once, all under the command of military and civilian pilots at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

"We are well on our way to having 100 simultaneously deployed gliders," added Bryan Mensi, the U.S. Navy's glider operations branch head. "It has taken hard work and dedication from all involved as we find new ways to implement automation and gain efficiency."

Hashtags Versus Hurricanes

While Ocean Gliders help scientists forecast hurricanes, a more pedestrian technology is used to help warn us of their approach. Increasingly, public officials are using social media to help inform the public before, during, and after natural disasters.

It's a practical approach. As of June 2018, Instagram alone had more than 1 billion monthly active users. Because so many people obsessively check social media, these apps are one of the most effective tools for disseminating storm warnings and evacuation orders.

“Social media is one of our most powerful tools when it comes to talking about severe weather with the public," Rick Smith, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, recently said in an online post. “Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms give us a direct link to the people that we serve, and allow us to not only share information to help people prepare for and deal with severe weather, but also to gather storm reports from the public.”

Don't Bet Against Mother Nature

While our technology is getting stronger, storms are too. In fact, the 2017 hurricane season saw 10 hurricane-strength storms, the first time that's happened since 1893. To protect our homes and businesses, many companies now specialize in selling hurricane-resistant windows and doors. Engineered glass can resist winds of 100 miles per hour and above.

As another hurricane season approaches, you can take comfort in the fact that we have new tools to guard against hurricanes. That being said, Mother Nature always wins out!