NASA Saving Lives
Reported September 2008
SAN FRANCISCO (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- More than 1,500 people have died in the last three years -- caught in a hurricane’s path. Imagine if you could see into the future. To do this, NASA has created new, more realistic storm animations that could save more lives.
Todd Sherman keeps a watchful eye on the sky. As a storm spotter -- a person who watches for signs of severe weather -- Sherman finds both the beauty and the beast in natural disasters.
"When you hear the thunder and you see the lightning, when you hear hail bouncing off the roof, you’re like, ‘Wow. Why is that? Why does that happen?’" Sherman told Ivanhoe. "You want to learn about it."
He's been hooked since he was a kid.
"I’m in awe," Sherman said. "It’s fascinating, it's beautiful, but at the same time you do want to keep a good wary eye and be cautious of it because it is very dangerous," Sherman said.
Now there’s an easier and safer way to know where and when storms will strike. Earth science students created new weather animations based on historical data from NASA satellites to map out the track and intensity of past storms.
"What we’re actually showing is what happened -- not supposition, not probability, but what actually happened," Jay Skiles, Ph.D., an earth scientist for the NASA Ames Research Center, told Ivanhoe.
For the first time, all the information is brought together -- sea surface height, sea surface temperature, wind and rain intensities -- to create a new, more realistic animation. It maps out where similar storms have hit -- and the aftermath.
"We hope that disaster managers can use the information provided in these animations to estimate magnitude of storms in the future and also better prepare populations for the storm, and help in the recovery thereafter," Dr. Skiles said.
This new animation helps forecasters and students learn from past storms.
"What excites me about this is the learning that the students go through," Dr. Skiles said. "Seeing students come in almost raw, pick up information, and come up with something like this … that is real world learning."
It's a lesson that could help save lives
The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
NASA Ames Research Center
American Geophysical Union
American Meteorological Society
Boston, MA 02108-3693
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