The resolution quality of today's NASA weather models is ten times better than it was during Katrina's era. Today's models can depict weather patterns with a resolution of just under 4 miles; in 2005, most images had a resolution of about 30 miles.
It has been 10 years since Hurricanes Katrina (Aug. 29), Rita (Sept. 23/24) and Wilma (Oct. 24) made landfall along the Gulf Coast during one of the most active hurricane seasons in recorded history. Over the course of the season, nearly 4,000 people lost their lives and there was nearly $160 billion in damage.
What a difference a decade makes. Nearly ten years on, NASA’s ability to track and predict the development of dangerous weather patterns has improved exponentially, as reported in a recent press release. NASA provides this information to National Hurricane Center, which is responsible for making evacuation calls.
NASA’s weather models have a resolution quality that is about ten times better than it was during Katrina’s era. Today’s models can depict weather patterns with a resolution just under 4 miles. In 2005, most images had a resolution of only about 30 miles.
“By going to a higher resolution, we have this process by which the resolved scale of the storm becomes smaller and smaller and closer and closer to reality,” said Oreste Reale, a meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Increasing the resolution is especially helpful to study and forecast a hurricane’s intensity.
“For the intensity of a hurricane, so much comes down to the details of the really small processes and specifics in the inner core,” said Dan Cecil, atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
The vast number of sensors on the ground and satellites in space to collect information has also improved NASA’s ability to track and predict hurricane behavior. Satellite data includes sea-surface temperature, precipitation, surface winds and pressure, dust, atmospheric temperature and water vapor and more.
Since Katrina, NASA has also launched three field campaigns covering 5 hurricane seasons. By flying manned and unmanned aircrafts into the hearts of the storms, field campaigns gather more focused data on specific hurricanes.
But it’s a combination of the availability and better integration of these data sets into models that have helped scientists understand and forecast hurricane behavior better.