New weather tracking system in the works at UMass
Everyone saw that movie “Twister” when we were younger; where tornado chasers had barrels with trackers in them, trying to use whatever data they got so they could know more about the storm and predict when they would be coming. What they never thought of was using the sky instead of the ground.
Scientists from UMass and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA are designing a tracker that NASA will put into orbit and use for data that cannot be matched by anything on Earth.
The tracker will collect data on ocean temperature, current shifts and circulation patterns to figure out if the differences will create a storm or just be another nice day at the beach.
NASA gave a three-year, $1.08 million grant to Paul Siqueira, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Siqueira, along with some colleagues, will be building an 18-inch receiver that will bounce microwaves off the Earth to collect the data. It is part of a larger piece of equipment that will make its outer space debut sometime in between 2013 and 2016.
This project is an update of an earlier one, and there are many improvements. It is more accurate, which means that the satellite carrying the receiver will be higher in the sky. It is going to be smaller than the previous model, making it lighter. It will also use less power, which means it will cost less. On top of that, all the gadgets and gizmos being used will be state-of-the-art.
This new technology will not track tornadoes specifically, but it will track any weather that changes due to the ocean, including droughts, heat waves, hurricanes and El Nino.
Emily Reynolds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.