u-blox America recently announced that the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) uses u-blox GPS technology to determine the strength, direction and speed of hurricanes. u-blox is an international company headquartered in Switzerland which develops leading positioning products based on the GPS for the automotive and mobile communications markets., Most recently, close to 40 sondes have been employed to measure the characteristics of hurricane “Katrina” so as to study and predict its behavior. NCAR, which works closely with the U.S. government’s National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has designed a highly sophisticated GPS dropsonde that is used by the 53rd Air Force Reserve Weather Squadron (AFRES).
Dubbed “Hurricane Hunters”, the squadron’s job is to fly airplanes directly into hurricanes, and drop GPS dropsondes attached to parachutes above the hurricane. During the free fall, the sondes take measurements relative to the behavior of the hurricane every half-second. The data is transmitted to the aircraft where it is recorded for later analysis. The GPS dropsondes provide high-resolution vertical profiles of temperature, pressure, humidity, and winds. This data is then used to predict hurricane intensity, severity and direction changes. The idea is that, by dropping small sensors contained in the GPS sonde into hurricanes, scientists can acquire data at high altitudes that will help them better understand the structure and dynamics of hurricanes. The sondes are also employed to observe and measure other equally challenging atmospheric phenomena such as severe thunderstorms and winter storm systems. Accurate prediction of hurricane path and intensity can avoid human casualties and help save billions in damages.