853 The utilization of NASA satellite data to analyze tropical cyclone wind speed and cloud height in the Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
Josh Stodghill, NASA, Mobile, AL; and A. Cederholm, A. Johnston, D. Mullek, and R. White

Handout (1.5 MB)

As tropical cyclones make landfall, most of the immediate structural damage is caused by strong winds. Instruments such as anemometers, thermometers, and barometers on buoys in the Gulf of Mexico provide real-time data as a storm approaches land. These instruments provide meteorological data at fixed geographical locations. Due to a limited number of buoys, much of the Gulf of Mexico is left unmonitored. Furthermore, buoys can occasionally fail in extreme weather conditions, such as high wind velocities. In hurricane research, satellite data can be utilized to supplement these field measurements. Several satellite instruments monitor wind speed and direction. This project utilized the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E) aboard the NASA Aqua satellite and the SeaWinds instrument aboard the NASA QuikSCAT satellite to monitor wind speed and direction of select storms that tracked through the Gulf of Mexico between 2002 and 2009. Ancillary wind speed data was retrieved from the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC). Satellite and buoy wind speed data were compared to assess strengths and limitations of each data set. Satellite-based wind field and wind speed distribution data was interpolated utilizing ArcGIS. Satellite wind speed data, which corresponded to select buoy data, was extracted from the interpolated maps. Statistical analysis was then carried out to assess the strengths and limitations of each data set. Additionally, cloud height data in six storms from 2006 to 2009 was obtained from the Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) instrument aboard the NASA CloudSAT satellite. Correlation between cloud heights and wind speed was assessed. On average QuikSCAT was found to deviate from buoy data by 2.8%, while on average the AMSR-E sensor deviated by over 125%. Thus this study found that QuikSCAT is most useful when reporting wind speeds above 10 ms-1. Upon analysis, average wind speed values increased along with cloud heights above 13,000 meters. Further research may be required once more data is available before more significant correlations may be identified.
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