What Instruments Are Used to Track Hurricanes?


According to the Weather Channel, the primary methods of tracking hurricanes include satellite imaging, Doppler radar and aircraft overflights. In addition, weather stations that measure wind speed and direction as well as rainfall, and report that data wirelessly, can prove extremely useful for determining a hurricane's effects. Most of these stations are placed on land, but buoys throughout the hurricane-producing regions of the ocean provide an early warning system.

Often, the first warning of a hurricane comes from satellite data. Satellites can measure water and air temperature as well as cloud density and movement, and give the first real sign of the rotation that signifies a newly born tropical storm. Once a storm begins to approach land, Air Force and NOAA pilots make reconnaissance flights into and above the developing storm. These planes often drop sensor gear into the storm to measure wind speeds at various altitudes, providing a three-dimensional picture of the storm's power.

When the storm approaches the coast, land-based radar and weather stations can begin providing more comprehensive data about the storm's movement and its effects, allowing forecasters to warn those in the hurricane's path to evacuate if necessary. Computer models are also invaluable tools for determining the probable movement of a storm 24 to 48 hours ahead of time, providing as much warning as possible.