Sea Floor Mapping, Hurricane Season Forecast. June 1, 2018, Part 2 | WBEZ
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Science Friday

Sea Floor Mapping, Hurricane Season Forecast. June 1, 2018, Part 2

The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, but it’s also one of the least understood. As mining companies eye the mineral resources of the deep sea—from oil and gas, to metal deposits—marine biologists like London’s Natural History Museum’s Diva Amon are working to discover and describe as much of the deep sea as they can. Amon has been on dozens of expeditions to sea, where she’s helped characterize ecosystems and discover new species all over the world. And she says we still don’t know enough about deep sea ecology to know how to protect these species, the ones we’ve found and the ones we haven’t yet, from mining. But accessing the deep ocean is expensive; it can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a day to run a research ship. So roboticists and artificial intelligence designers are developing underwater drones to map and sniff out the secrets of the deep with the help of sophisticated chemical sensors. 

June 1 marks the start of the official “hurricane season” in the Atlantic, the time when powerful storms are most likely to spin their way out of the tropics. Each year, teams of forecasters try to anticipate the number and severity of storms to come. Some try to run climate models that simulate atmospheric behavior over multi-month timeframes, while other teams rely on statistics and comparisons with historic data for their estimates of the upcoming storm season. Michael Bell, co-author of Colorado State University’s seasonal hurricane forecast, says that after looking at factors including Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels, and El Niño, their team is predicting 13 additional named storms during the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season (in addition to Alberto, which formed before the Atlantic hurricane season began). Of those storms, the forecast calls for six to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength. That’s in line with a separate forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center estimating between 10-16 named storms and 5-9 hurricanes.  

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