New Brunswick, N.J. (Dec. 3, 2018) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick experts can comment on sea surface temperatures and other data gathered by underwater gliders that Hurricane Michael and other storms passed over this year.

Rutgers helped deploy the underwater gliders in the Caribbean Sea to collect critical temperature and salinity data to improve ocean-atmosphere modeling in the region for hurricane forecasting. Ocean heat is the fuel for hurricane winds, and knowing more about heat and how fast it moves from the ocean into the atmosphere can lead to better predictions of how strong a storm might be at landfall.

The goal is to reduce forecast uncertainty and protect lives in the region.

“The ocean is the heat engine for these hurricanes. Having observations of how much heat is available and how it changes during a storm will help us better predict the intensity of storms before they make landfall. Underwater robots like gliders allow us to make those critical measurements,” said Travis Miles, an assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership.

“This hurricane season, the oceanographic community came together with dedicated hurricane glider deployments and a data-sharing strategy for all gliders that increased the number of ocean observations available to the national forecasting centers by a factor of 15. This unprecedented dataset will now be used to assess how we did in 2018, and how we can make even more improvements for the 2019 hurricane season,” said Scott Glenn, distinguished professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and co-director of the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership.

“Ocean technology is rapidly evolving, allowing us to see the ocean like we have never been able to in the past. Since we are so tightly linked to our ocean, these new observations support the science that can inform our response to extreme events like hurricanes and other coastal storms,” said Josh Kohut, an associate professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

The gliders were deployed near Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in collaboration with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, CARICOOS (part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System), the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. Navy. Rutgers focused on U.S. Virgin Islands deployments, while the NOAA lab focused on Puerto Rico. The Navy owns and operates the gliders, and Rutgers scientists are serving as a field team and working with the Navy to make data public and accessible for hurricane research in real time.

A Rutgers RUCOOL blog has some data on Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Matthew and other storms.

  • Miles is available to comment at [email protected].
  • Glenn is available to comment at [email protected].
  • Kohut is available to comment at [email protected].                                                                   ###

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