Wednesday, September 14, 2011

50 YA - Tiros III spots a monster

Tiros spin-stabilized satellite.

Almost Forgot! We remember that Tiros 3, an early weather satellite, had some success in spotting storms at sea. %0 years ago, it spotted and captured on camera a full blown hurricane.

Gotcha! Esther in 1961.

Like the first two Tiros machines, the processes of watching storms from space were still developing and were experimental. It took about 8 hours for the images to be processed through the early computers of the time, and the photos themselves were not considered proof enough to declare Esther an official hurricane. It was, though, enough to recognize the storm for the danger it was and to begin tracking it. Two days later, hurricane-hunter aircraft penetrated the storm and proved winds were at hurricane strength. It was also determined to be heading towards the U.S.

Hurricane Irene hits the Bahamas, 2011.

Now compare the image of another beast, this time the recent hurricane Irene. As you are aware, Irene just completed a very damaging hit to the eastern seaboard of the U.S. causing billions of dollars in damage. Irene was tracked minute by minute by today's modern weather watchers in space, from its discovery as a front just off the coast of Africa to its last moments sweeping to see in the North Atlantic. Because we had adequate warning, many lives were saved and much property protected. This is the great advantage of space access and technology.

Back in 1961, Esther struck back as a hurricane-hunter went missing and seven airmen were killed. Esther made a loop in its path before crashing into New England and causing $37 million in damages, very modest compared to Irene's damage. Am interesting note: Esther was the first hurricane to experience our scientists' attempts to use cloud-seeding to dump water while out at sea. As a fact, Esther did weaken before hitting land, which encouraged scientists to try more methods like this.

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