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Rutgers professors join hurricane research project using Navy gliders

Sep 17, 2020, 4:01 AM

For the 2020 hurricane season, the Urban Coast Institute (UCI) partnered with a team of federal agencies and research institutions, including Rutgers, to deploy two Navy research gliders that collect data on interactions between the ocean and hurricanes that pass through the New York-New Jersey Bight.

The team included Scott Glenn, distinguished professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Travis Miles, assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, as well as Monmouth University student Bryce McCall, UCI marine scientist Jim Nickels and UCI communications director Karl Vilacoba.

The gliders were launched on July 30 from Monmouth University’s research vessel Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe between the shipping lanes serving the New York Harbor, according to the article from Monmouth University. 

“Our hope is to use these observations to improve our ocean and atmosphere hurricane forecasts, both by providing more data to the forecast systems, but also to learn more about the physics of ocean and atmospheric interactions in our coastal oceans,” Miles said. “These storms and processes are largely un-explored and it’s incredibly exciting to get to do this work.”

The gliders collect temperature, salinity and other oceanographic variables throughout the ocean. Ocean temperature in particular influences whether hurricanes intensify or weaken, Miles said, with hurricanes strengthening when passing over warm ocean and weakening over colder waters.

It is difficult to obtain data in the ocean during storms through other methods, such as via boats, moored buoys or profilers, Miles said. 

“Deploying a glider requires a lot of preparation in the laboratory to make sure the systems are properly sealed, are ballasted and trimmed correctly for flight and their software is set up correctly,” he said. “Once they are prepared in the lab two people can deploy them from small boats a few miles offshore by simply sliding them off a cart into the ocean.”

The gliders will cruise the waters between the continental shelf and the coast through late October, according to the article. Their deployment was executed under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System as part of a multi-year project to launch gliders along the Atlantic Coast.

The gliders are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Glider Picket Line deployed along the East Coast to help improve hurricane forecasts and warnings as they are approaching landfall, Glenn said. 

“We are hoping the gliders enable researchers and students to develop a better understanding of how the ocean responds to hurricanes and feeds back on their intensity,” Glenn said. “We then work with our many hurricane partners to use this understanding to improve hurricane forecasts and warnings across the United States.”

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