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    Getting ahead of the hurricane

    At least 6 hours before a hurricane hits the coast, it is possible to predict, using GPS observations, which way it will go on land – proved an international team of scientists in which Prof. Janusz Bogusz and DSc Anna Kłos from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geodesy at MUT (The Military University of Technology – editor’s note) worked.

    Scientists used changes in atmospheric water vapour content determined from Global Positioning System (GPS) observations to monitor and predict the hurricane’s track. They verified their research methods for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the east coast of the United States in 2017.


    “The GPS satellite positioning system allows us to monitor changes in the water vapour content of the atmosphere by determining the signal delay along the satellite-receiver path. These values have already been used in numerical weather prediction models or analyses of possible climate changes,” explains Anna Kłos, DSc.


    As she explains, hurricanes are among the greatest hydrometeorological threats and cause incredible damage to the coasts they hit. They have been happening more frequently and stronger in recent years. Their formation is favoured by increased evaporation over the oceans.


    “Meteorologists try to predict the occurrence and intensity of cyclones, although the reliability of the predictions becomes complicated when the mechanisms causing cyclones are not fully understood. The quality of forecasts has significantly improved with the increase in the number of observations collected by ground station networks,” states DSc Kłos.


    The researcher estimates that 2017 was one of the three most intense years for hurricanes in the last century. As many as 17 tropical cyclones formed during the 2017 tropical cyclone season, 10 of which developed immediately into hurricanes with unprecedented longevity, and six became powerful hurricanes (Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Lee, and Maria). Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were Category 4 hurricanes that produced more rainfall along the Gulf of Mexico and east coast of the United States than any other storm this season. On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of Texas. Just days after the passage of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma hit the Antilles with unprecedented force on September 6, 2017, followed by Cuba and Florida on September 9 and 10.


    The article, “Monitoring and prediction of hurricane tracks using GPS tropospheric products,” appeared in the journal GPS Solutions. The international authors (in the order listed in the journal) are Y.G. Ejigu, F.N. Teferle, A. Kłos, J. Bogusz, and A. Hunegnaw.

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