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NASA study reveals new data on powerful storms

November 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Forecasters may soon be able to do a better job predicting powerful storms like Super Storm Sandy. A NASA study has uncovered some hidden secrets of storm formation.

The study was performed over a decade. It focused on hurricanes along the East Coast. But its applications could help us predict storm intensity right here at home.

Who can forget the images of utter devastation as Super Storm Sandy roared ashore?

"For many, many years we've gotten better at forecasting where a storm is going to go several days in the future but we haven't made many advances in forecasting how intense a storm is going to be," said JPL Research Scientist Brian Kahn.

JPL scientists teamed up to try to improve forecasting intensity. They used a satellite called Aqua and a system called AIRS. They focused in on water vapor in the atmosphere and discovered moisture matters when it comes to storms.

"The storms that are the most intense seem to live in an atmosphere that's more moist," said Kahn.

Scientists feel that if people knew more about Sandy's intensity before it hit, there would have been more evacuations and potentially more lives saved. They hope this model can help in that process for the next major storm.

"Where hurricanes are common this definitely is relevant to their life and safety and property," said Kahn.

JPL scientists hope to expand this study to the Pacific region. They say the lessons about water vapor can be helpful in more accurately predicting storm intensity here in storms.

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