September 11, 2008

ESA Satellite Keeps Track of Ike

The European Space Agency said its Earth observation satellite Envisat is being used to help track Hurricane Ike as it travels across the Gulf of Mexico.

Knowing the strength and path of hurricanes is critical for issuing timely warnings, the ESA said, and satellites are key means of providing synoptic data on the forces that power such storms, such as cloud structure, wind and wave fields, sea surface temperature and sea surface height.

"Thanks to Envisat's unique capability to acquire optical and radar imagery over the same area of the Earth simultaneously, the top and bottom of a hurricane can be viewed at the same time," the ESA said in a statement. "Moreover, satellite-based radar instruments have the capability of penetrating heavy clouds and precipitations and can provide day and night high-resolution observations of critical ocean parameters, such as local wind, waves and currents over a 400-kilometer (250-mile) region."

In the future, combined instantaneous wind speed, wave heights and surface velocity maps will be integrated into models to improve storm track and intensity, the space agency said.