The power of tornadoes and hurricanes and CubeSats satellites
More than a decade has passed since the last strongest tornado in the US, rated 5 on the National Weather Service intensity scale (new Fujita scale, over 321 km/h). However, it probably has more to do with luck and the nuances of estimating a storm than weather phenomena. Whether a tornado can get a rating of 5 is determined by chance – it must hit, for example, a substantial building structure. If a violent tornado only passes over a forest or farmland, it will not receive the highest rating. Therefore, work is underway to refresh the Fujita scale, including more damage assessment indicators.
Meanwhile, as scientists predict, tropical cyclones – hurricanes and typhoons – will become more robust, and the damage will be more catastrophic. Warmer air and water drive winds and move moisture into the clouds, and rising sea levels do more damage to coasts during storms. The strength of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will be determined by the collision of El Niño, a natural weather and ocean phenomenon that weakens hurricane activity, with record-breaking ocean heat in the Atlantic. It is partly the result of man-made climate change, and it also increases the strength of hurricanes.
NASA has launched two small satellites called CubeSats that will study the formation of hurricanes. The satellites, roughly the size of a shoebox, will join two similar devices to form a constellation to observe “the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, and provide rapidly updated observations of storm intensity.”