When millions of people are bracing themselves for the onslaught of extreme weather, as much information as possible is needed to predict the strength of the impending storm. ESA's SMOS mission again showed its versatility by capturing unique measurements of Hurricane Sandy.
As its name suggests, the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite was designed to measure how much moisture is held in soil and how much salt is held in the surface waters of the oceans.
This information is helping to improve our understanding of the water cycle an essential component of the Earth system.
However, this state-of-the-art Earth Explorer mission has demonstrated that its instrumentation and measuring techniques can be used to offer much more.
Since SMOS has the ability to see through clouds and it is little affected by rain, it can also provide reliable estimates of the surface wind speeds under intense storms.
Parts of the Caribbean and northeastern US are still suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record.
Unusually, Sandy was a hybrid storm, tapping energy from the evaporation of seawater like a hurricane and from different air temperatures like a winter storm. These conditions generated a super storm that spanned an incredible 1800 km.
As it orbited above, the satellite intercepted parts of Hurricane Sandy at least eight times as the storm swept over Jamaica and Cuba around 25 October, until its landfall in New Jersey, US, four days later.
The data from these encounters have been used to estimate the speed of the wind over the ocean's surface.
SMOS carries a novel microwave sensor to capture images of 'brightness temperature'. These images correspond to radiation emitted from the surface of Earth, which are then used to derive information on soil moisture and ocean salinity.
Strong winds over oceans whip up waves and w
|Contact: Robert Meisner|
European Space Agency