To put it mildly, it’s been a weird hurricane season. Despite predictions that La Niña would cause more frequent storms, the Atlantic has had only six named storms so far compared to 21 storms in 2021 and 2020’s total of 30.
Hurricane Fiona is the first Category 4 storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. It has recently wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, leaving at least eight dead and many homes destroyed. Fiona is now on a collision course with the east coast of Canada, though it is predicted that she will lose some of her ferocity along the way.
Images released from an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) called Saildrone Explorer SD 1078 show what it’s like to travel in the heart of the hurricane.
Saildrone Explorer SD 1078 was dispatched into the midst of Hurricane Fiona, facing 50-foot (15-meter) waves and 100-mile-per-hour (160-kilometer-per-hour) winds. Three other USV Saildrone also recorded data from the storm before it was upgraded to Category 4.
SD 1078 is now 315 nautical miles southwest of Bermuda, where Hurricane Fiona is expected to pass. It is one of seven Hurricane Saildrones deploying to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico to collect data and offer a whole new perspective on one of the most powerful destructive forces on Earth. The data they collect is vital to improving storm forecasting and helps reduce human loss by helping coastal communities better prepare for these devastating storm events.
“These exciting emerging technologies provide [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] with another valuable tool that can collect data in places we can’t reach with other observing systems,” said Capt. Philip Hall, director of NOAA’s Unmanned Systems Operations Center, in a statement.
Hurricanes form when moist air above warm ocean water rises, creating an area of lower air pressure below. Air from surrounding areas with higher pressure pushes into the area of low pressure. This heats the air, which also rises. The whole process continues as more air rises and more air swirls below to take its place. The air at the top cools as it rises, forming clouds and thunderstorms. Once the winds reach 74 mph (120 km/h), the storm officially becomes a hurricane.
The names “hurricane” and “tropical cyclone” mean the same thing: a rotating cloud system that has formed over tropical waters. “Hurricane” is used when these storms form over the North Atlantic or Northeast Pacific.
Due to a clear phenomenon known as the Coriolis effect, the air entering the center of a hurricane moves to the right in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that the storm appears to rotate counterclockwise, and towards the left in the southern hemisphere. – as a result, the storm appears to rotate in a clockwise direction. This is because the Earth spins faster at the equator than at the poles.