CU-Boulder Researchers Chart Hurricane Rita Through Gulf Of Mexico

September 21, 2005

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A new image showing the track of Hurricane Rita through the Gulf of Mexico as of Sept. 21 has been produced at the University of Colorado at Boulder and made available on the Web site of a university center.

Processed at CU-Boulder's Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, or CCAR, the image was produced with data from four satellites that use altimeters to measure sea-surface height to an accuracy of less than one inch. The researchers extrapolated ocean temperatures from subtle height changes in the water measured by altimeters bouncing microwave pulses from the satellites to the ocean surface and back, said aerospace engineering Associate Research Professor Robert Leben of CCAR.

The sea-surface height image shows the warm Loop Current and a near, warm-water eddy known as Eddy Vortex standing 35 centimeters to 60 centimeters higher than the surrounding water, said Leben. In the Gulf, a tight correlation exists between the sea-surface height and the temperature of the waters, said Leben. The higher the sea-surface is above the mean surface height, the deeper the warm water is beneath it. Warmer waters provide more energy to hurricanes, increasing their intensity, he said.

The CCAR researchers used data from the U.S./French TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 satellites, as well as the U.S. Navy's Geosat Follow-On satellite and the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite. They combined the data with hurricane wind speed and position data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to produce the image.

The image, including wind speeds, is posted on the Web at: http://ccar.colorado.edu/~leben/rita_wind.jpg. A second image with caption info is at: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA06428.

More information is at: http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2005/358.html.

Leben is at (303) 492-4113 and Professor George Born is at (303) 492-8638.

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