The Straits Times
Published on Sep 01, 2012

Scientists test new marine robot hurricane-hunters


(REUTERS) - As Tropical Storm Isaac was on its path through the Caribbean before becoming a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this week, United States (US) scientists were testing an experimental new weather spy tool - an unmanned, marine robot about the size of a surfboard that can gather storm data at sea level.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research laboratory in Miami sent the "Wave Glider", a floating platform of sensors with an underwater stabiliser christened Alex, into ocean waters about 160km north of Puerto Rico last week to try to intercept Isaac.

"Isaac did not barrel right over it," said Mr Alan Leonardi, deputy director of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, after the storm passed to the south of the island before turning north and making landfall near New Orleans as a Category 1 hurricane.

"But Isaac being the size storm it is, the Wave Glider was able to collect data from the outer rain bands. We can't steer a hurricane, but we did get good data out of it." A few days later, scientists got a second look at Isaac, from another Wave Glider - named G2 - on a separate oil and gas mission in the Gulf of Mexico.