Hundreds of oceanic robots tracking hurricanes and other storms

PROVIDENCE, R.I, (WLNE) — Thirty-six hundred robots make up the Argo Global Program, a massive array used to track data in the ocean that’s being used to track storms like HurricaneLee.

“There’s an unusually warm deep layer, and so that’s going to mean, as Lee comes towards the coast, in normal years it would dissipate very quickly right as it hits cold waters,” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Senior Scientist Susan Wijffles said. “Well, this year those waters are actually not that cold.” 

Wijffles said the project has seen rising temperatures in the ocean, around two to three degrees higher than normal, and that contributes to storms sticking around longer and getting bigger than they might have before.

“The air around us is carrying more energy and more water, and so, when there’s a normal big rain out under a thundercloud, now there’s just a lot more water in the rain,” she said” “And so we’re seeing this locally, w’’re seeing it all around the world and that’s because we’re warming Earth.”

Wijffels added that it seems likely this may be becoming the norm.

“The hurricanes that do get up here as we warm the water are likely to be more intense,” she said. “And so Lee is a good example of one that is remaining as a very coherent large storm all the way, crossing the gulf stream. Normally when it crosses the gulf stream it should go ‘Whoa! Really cold water here, I don’t like this!’ but now, the waters not so cold anymore.” 

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