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NASA begins to build satellite mission to improve hurricane forecasting

19 August 2015

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Ten years after Hurricane Katrina formed in the Atlantic, construction of NASA's next-generation hurricane-observing satellite mission now is underway in Texas.

NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission, a constellation of eight microsatellites, will improve hurricane forecasting by making measurements of ocean surface winds in and near the eye wall of tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes throughout their life cycle.

CYGNSS will allow scientists to probe the inner core of hurricanes from space frequently for the first time, using both direct and reflected signals from existing GPS satellites to obtain estimates of surface wind speeds over the ocean. These measurements will advance forecasting methods by providing data that can lead to better predictions of hurricane tracks, intensities and storm surges.

As the CYGNSS and GPS satellites circle Earth, their interaction will provide a new image of wind speeds over the entire tropics every few hours, whereas a single satellite supplies a new image every few days. The ability to better monitor and predict the rapid changes in hurricane intensity, such as those observed with Hurricane Katrina, is critical to hurricane forecasters and U.S. coastal communities.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: SwRI - Construction of the CYGNSS satellites

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