Chinese scientists were able to launch weather-monitoring rockets from an unmanned semi-submersible vehicle (USSV) designed to travel into the heart of severe marine weather, such as typhoons.
The rockets, called “rocketsondes,” are battery-powered telemetry instruments that ride into the atmosphere typically via a weather balloon, according to the researchers. All the collected meteorological data is later transmitted by radio to a ground receiver.
However, weather balloons cannot live up to the standards of several readings, including marine weather (typhoons, fog, hurricanes, etc.) research, marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) modeling, numerical prediction, and marine satellite product validation. This gap is where the rocketsonde aboard a USSV may be able to lend its services.
“Launched from a long-duration unmanned semi-submersible vehicle, with strong mobility and large coverage of the sea area, rocketsonde (meteorological rockets that are capable of launching weather instruments up to 8,000 m into the atmosphere) can be used under severe sea conditions and will be more economical and applicable in the future,” says Hongbin Chen, professor of atmospheric and marine science at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the study’s lead author.
According to Dr. Jun Li, a researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, CAS, and co-author of the study, “The unmanned semi-submersible vehicle is an ideal platform for marine meteorological environmental monitoring, and the atmospheric profile information provided by rocketsonde launched from this platform can improve the accuracy of numerical weather forecasts at sea and in coastal zones. Similar to Argo (the broad-scale global array of profiling floats that measures temperature/salinity in the ocean), which provides profiles of Thermohaline current, rocketsonde can provide profiles of atmospheric temperature, humidity, pressure, and wind observations.”
Hopefully, the USSV platform will provide the groundwork for a network of marine weather observations, Chen says. This system can create a 3D view of the inner structures of typhoons and hurricanes, and will potentially improve path and intensity prediction models.
“We are currently developing a new generation of USSVs which can carry various sensors relevant to marine science, including conductivity-temperature-depth, acoustic Doppler current profiler, and motion sensors to provide vertical profiles of the conductivity, water temperature, current velocity, and wave height and direction,” explains Chen. “With that, a new interconnected USSV meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) observation network system will be developed to improve the efficiency of collecting METOC observations and provide comprehensive data at the temporal and spatial scales required to answer relevant scientific questions.”
The study, “First Rocketsonde Launched from an Unmanned Semi-submersible Vehicle,” was published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.