Hurricanes are the most powerful accumulations of energy on Earth. Nothing else even comes close. They are fearsome tropical storms that spring to life roughly the same time every year, churning up oceans and shredding the nerves of residents who live along coastal zones.
But hurricanes are really just manifestations of natural processes interacting. As such, they provide unusual opportunities for scientific research, and if recent history is any guide, the beginning of the twenty-first century augurs a new era in hurricane understanding.
Using NASA's extraordinary fleet of Earth observing instruments, scientists have recently made discoveries about the behavior and nature of these gigantic storms. It turns out that they often begin in unexpected, distant places around the globe; they can alter the course of other storms trailing behind; they can stretch their arms hundreds of miles in all directions.
Observations from space have enabled NASA and other research institutions to develop sophisticated computer models, too. These models allow scientists to simulate and test hypothesizes about hurricanes, which in turn facilitate development of new, more accurate predictive tools.
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NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio