Around this time last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) joined forces with Saildrone to chase hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean using sensor-packed unmanned surface vehicles. Now the partnership is back, and one of the Explorer vessels has captured the first Category 4 storm of the 2022 season on video.
The Explorer that recorded the turbulent footage from inside Hurricane Fiona yesterday was actually the fourth Saildrone USV to engage with the storm.
The first was stationed 400 nm (740 km) east of Montserrat when Fiona was still a tropical storm. It had grown in strength to a Category 1 by the time it encountered the second vessel near Puerto Rico, where wind speeds of more than 70 mph (112 km/h) and waves as high as 46 ft (14 m) were recorded. Fiona then headed north to meet the third USV.
But it was SD 1078 that was directed into its path to the south of Bermuda, where 50-ft (15 m) waves and wind speeds of over 100 mph (160 km/h) have been recorded.
While inside the storm, the vessel sailed at 9 mph (14.5 km/h), but reached a peak speed of 39.7 mph (~64 km/h) as it surfed a huge wave. The Category 4 hurricane is expected to continue north to Bermuda and will reach Nova Scotia on Friday.
Split Screen Hurricane Fiona SD 1078 9 22 14 11
Seven hurricane-capable Saildrones have been deployed to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to gather scientific data on this year’s hurricane season, which will be used to improve storm forecasting while also furthering the understanding of the physical processes of hurricanes.
“Saildrone is once again demonstrating its ability to provide critical ocean data in the most extreme weather conditions,” said Saildrone founder and CEO, Richard Jenkins. “Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and loss of life. The data Saildrone vehicles are gathering will help the science community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”