NASA’s Ability to Track Hurricanes


With NASA being in the news so much lately regarding the many missions to space that will be taking place over the next couple of years, it’s easy to forget that this organization helps us here on our own planet as well.  NASA’s extremely advanced technology can detect things that are taking place on our planet long before they actually occur due to the fact that they can observe things that are forming in our atmosphere that we cannot see with the naked eye. 

This is especially the case when it comes to hurricanes.  In fact, many people are surprised to learn about just how much NASA is able to successfully track hurricanes, and how useful this information is to us.  The truth is that thanks to NASA, we have been able to prevent many casualties from occurring during a hurricane.

So, how does NASA have the ability to predict and track hurricanes?  Well, you’re about to find out.

What is a Hurricane, Anyway?

A hurricane is a potentially catastrophic tropical storm that requires the presence of both warm ocean water and high humidity.  When these two atmospheric factors collide, a cyclone develops that results in a storm complete with heavy rainfall and extremely high winds.  As the humid air covers the warm ocean water, pressure increases which causes a hurricane to begin rotating.  It’s this rotation that explains why hurricanes are so aggressive.

Each year, there are about ten named hurricanes along the Atlantic Ocean.  They are separated into categories, with 1 being the mildest and 5 being the most severe.  Needless to say, it’s rare for a hurricane to reach category 5, but it does happen, and when it does, you can bet that there will be lots of destruction as a result.

How Can NASA Track Hurricanes?

Before NASA came about, hurricanes were almost impossible to track, and so people who lived in hurricane-prone areas did not know that one was coming until it was too late.  As a result, hurricanes used to be far more deadly than they are today.  Nowadays, people can be mad aware that a hurricane is coming into their area several days before it makes landfall.  Before that was the case, citizens were left with basically no time to prepare.

Because of NASA, we can track hurricanes more precisely than we ever have before.  NASA uses a series of instruments that each provide different crucial data regarding a hurricane that’s forming and its unique path.  The path of a hurricane refers to the path of land that it will be covering, and knowing the path allows people to know whether or not a hurricane is headed their way.

NASA uses a variety of instruments that orbit the earth and collect data that is given to the National Hurricane Center.  This includes satellite images that are taken from a far-off distance that show hurricanes beginning to form.  As you can imagine, on Earth we can’t see hurricanes forming over large ocean bodies, which is why without NASA, we wouldn’t be able to predict them at all.

In fact, NASA has spacecraft that was specially designed to spot and track weather events, including the Calipso, the Jason-2 and the CloudSat.  Each of these contain many instruments that take pictures and gather information regarding what’s happening in the Earth’s atmosphere.  Data that’s gathered includes windspeed, humidity, rainfall rate, temperature and cloud height.  Then, this information is put together to determine exactly what category a hurricane is, how likely it is to make landfall and its projected path.

However, things weren’t always so advanced.  Back in the day, NASA scientists had to manually put all of this data together to come up with a clear idea of how a hurricane could affect people on land.  Nowadays, however, there is advanced computer technology that produces high-quality images that predict what the effects and path of a hurricane will be.  These are far more accurate, and they inform the National Weather Service on what to expect once the hurricane makes landfall.

NASA doesn’t just track existing hurricanes, either.  There have been several missions that had the sole purpose of observing hurricanes over a period of time in order to gather data that gives us more insight into these unique weather events.  This information allows us to make more accurate predictions regarding hurricanes in the future.

Can NASA Use Their Tools to Prevent Serious Destruction from Occurring?

Despite the fact that NASA has some of the most advanced technology on the planet, they cannot do anything to stop a hurricane from making landfall or from being destructive.  Essentially, hurricanes are beyond our control.  What NASA can do, however, is inform the public about an imminent hurricane long before it makes landfall.  This undoubtedly saves lives and minimizes destruction as it gives citizens ample time to prepare for the upcoming weather event.  It allows people to know when they must evacuate, and when they must prepare their homes against the high winds and possible flooding that may occur.

Seeing a Hurricane Coming Long Before it Causes Massive Destruction

The advanced technology used by NASA allows us to make preparations before a hurricane even makes landfall.  As time goes on, NASA’s hurricane-tracking technology will only evolve, which means that it’ll be easier than ever to prepare for such a catastrophic event.

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