What Tools Are Used to Track Hurricanes?

Some of the tools hurricane centers use to track and forecast storms include satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, ships, buoys and radar systems. Satellites are used in remotely measuring the intensity and track of the hurricane as the tropical cyclone travels over the ocean.

Forecasters interpret satellite data to calculate the storm’s characteristics, such as the location of its center, its previous movement and its maximum wind speed or intensity. The forecasting procedure typically starts by gathering available observations. Satellites regularly monitor a hurricane from the formation of the storm until its dissipation.

In North America, the National Hurricane Center predicts the size, structure, intensity and track of tropical cyclones, storm surges, rainfall and tornadoes caused by tropical cyclones. Other forecast agencies conduct procedures similar to the process used by the NHC, but they tailor their procedures to their specific areas of responsibility.

The U.S. Air Force and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane aircraft, dropsondes and land stations directly keep track of any Atlantic hurricane that threatens to make landfall. The Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination, All Hurricanes, or CARCAH, is responsible for organizing tropical cyclone reconnaissance flights, which provide data to CARCAH, the NHC forecasters and the public. Land-based radars are used to obtain data on precipitation and wind velocity as the typhoon draws near the coast.