Paper on a new dropwindsonde that measures sea surface temperature published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology

Warm water provides the energy for tropical cyclones to form and intensify, and knowing the temperature of the water is important in predicting how strong a hurricane will become. Dropwindsondes are instruments that measure air temperature, moisture, pressure, and wind velocity as they fall toward the ocean after release from Hurricane Hunter aircraft, but they do not measure the water temperature. This study is about a new way to measure the sea surface temperature (SST) by installing an infrared (IR) temperature sensor on the existing dropwindsonde. These IR sensors are like the ones used to measure body temperature as people walk through airports and other busy areas, especially during medical emergencies. The IRsondes are the first airborne instruments that can estimate the energy transfer between the ocean and the air that fuel hurricanes. Two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunter airplanes flew into Hurricane Edouard when it was a category-3 hurricane from September 15-17, 2014, and released a total of 57 new IRsondes.

Important Conclusions:

  1. The SST measured by the IRsonde agrees with other measurements at the same location.
  2. The IRsonde data can estimate the energy exchanged between the ocean and the atmosphere. This energy exchange is important for hurricane intensity changes.
  3. The amount of this energy exchange is related to how much the hurricane intensifies; the hurricane intensity itself is related to how warm and moist the region near the surface (called the boundary layer) becomes due to these exchanges.Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 12.29.07 PM.png

You can read the paper at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JTECH-D-16-0211.1.