Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tropical Storms--Measuring and recording weather conditions

Tropical storms are a moving hazard, so they must be tracked and forecasts made of their future progress. That is what meteorologists do. 

If they can measure how they are developing, they they can warn people in the predicted path of the storm. This should give people time to prepare such as moving to higher ground (avoid storm surge) or to an emergency shelter. Homes can be made ready by boarding up windows and moving furniture upstairs. 

The media which includes TV, radio and the Internet play an important role in keeping the general public updated about the storm and where it is expected to go. 

How do meteorologists track and predict the movement of tropical storms? The data they work on comes from a number of different sources.

Weather Stations
There is a global network of weather stations that track the movement of tropical storms. Some are manned, some are automatic, some monitor the weather all the time and others just at set hours during the day and night.

Once all this information about pressure, temperature, humidity, winds and so on is collected and put together, it can be used to predict what will happen to the storm. Will it deepen, with an increase in rainfall and wind speeds or will the storm begin to weaken and fizzle out?

Weather Satellites
These are important for viewing large weather systems on a worldwide scale. They show cloud formation, large weather events such as hurricanes, and other global weather systems. With satellites, forecasters can see weather systems such as tropical storms.

On each satellite, there are 2 types of sensor. One is a visible light sensor called the imager. It works like a camera in space and helps gather information on cloud movements and patterns. This sensory can only be used during daylight hours, since it works by capturing reflected light to create images.

The second sensory is the sounder. It is an infrared sensor that reads temperatures. The higher the temperature of the object, the more energy it emits. This sensory allows satellites to measure the amount of energy radiated by the Earth's surface, clouds, oceans, air etc. Infrared sensors can be used at night which is helpful for forecasters, considering that the imagers can only pick up data during daylight hours.

Doppler radar is another important meteorological tool. Radar works a little differently from satellite sensors. Instead of reading reflected light or energy, radar measures reflected sound waves. When sound waves are broadcast from a radar mast and come into contact with a moving object, such as a rain cloud, radar will give information about the direction and speed of the object's movement. By using radar and getting a 'picture' of precipitation (e.g water falling to the ground) on the radar screen, meteorologists are able to track a storm's progress over time. 

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