GeoWorld February 2013

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NEWSLINK NASA-Sponsored Tool Pinpoints Ocean Storms A NASA-funded research center developed a prototype system to help air-traffic controllers and pilots avoid major storms over remote ocean regions. The system, developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), combines satellite data and computer weather models to produce maps and eight-hour forecasts of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions. The 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, which encountered thunderstorms over the Atlantic Ocean, helped spur development of the new forecast system. ���These new forecasts can help fill an important gap in our aviation system,��� said NCAR���s Cathy Kessinger, lead researcher on the project. ���Pilots have had limited information about atmospheric conditions as they fly over the ocean, where conditions can be severe. By providing them with a picture of where significant storms will be during an eight-hour period, the system can contribute to both the safety and comfort of passengers on flights.��� Developers of the new system based it on products that NCAR already had produced to alert pilots and air-traffic controllers about hazards such as turbulence and lightning over land. Above the ocean, a challenge lies in the lack of ground-based radar, which can see within clouds. Radar aboard aircraft as well as geostationary satellites for monitoring conditions over the ocean do a poor job of seeing through dense clouds, making it difficult to pinpoint turbulence and often causing pilots to detour hundreds of miles around potentially stormy areas. Kessinger and fellow researchers turned to geostationary satellite measurements to identify regions of the atmosphere that met two conditions: 1) particularly high cloud tops and 2) water vapor at high altitudes. Such conditions indicate powerful storms and strong updrafts that can threaten aircraft. Researchers applied techniques involving ���fuzzy logic��� and data fusion to ���zero in��� on the more-concerning storms. They also used object-tracking techniques and simulations of wind fields to predict storm locations. The researchers verified forecasts using data from NASA���s Earth-observation projects, such as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite. NASA Analysis Spotlights Major Disasters of 2012 A forecast from early January 2013 shows potential ocean-storm threats near the United States. A new NASA-funded prototype system should help pilots avoid dangers and unnecessary detours. 6 G E O W O R L D / F E B R U A R Y 2 O 1 3 Spatial-science experts at CoreLogic compiled a Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis that highlights major 2012 U.S. natural disasters and summarizes potential risks for 2013. The analysis details the impact of hurricanes, floods, wildfires and tornados through 2012 as well as risks throughout 2013, summarizing the structural, geographic and financial impact of disasters that cause billions of dollars in property damage annually. Not surprisingly, Hurricane Sandy weighed in as the largest disaster. ���Hurricane Sandy was, without a doubt, the singlemost destructive natural-hazard event of 2012, due to the combination of environmental elements that created what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) called a ���Frankenstorm,������ said Thomas Jeffery, senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic. ���The unusually broad span of the storm���s reach, its intersecting path with a nor���easter and its landfall at high tide led to disastrous levels of storm surge, pushing floodwaters far overland and causing widespread destruction along the coast that could total as high as $50 billion.���

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