Cambridge (MA) - Determining the difference between a level two and level three hurricane may be done in the future by measuring the sound instead of flying in airplanes in the middle of it at several hours throughout the day.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new, more cost-effective way of measuring the intensity of a hurricane.
Right now, the official way of determining hurricane strength is by sending in "hurricane hunters" that fly into the middle of the storm in durable airplanes, clocking the wind speeds as they pass.
However, according to MIT, the planes cost nearly $100 million each, and each individual flight costs around $50,000. This makes monitoring a single hurricane a very expensive ordeal, and the technology surrounding it hasn't changed all that much.
The new research from MIT has looked at placing out underwater microphones in the path of a hurricane. By measuring the amount of sound an oceanic storm produces, scientists can determine how fast the sustained winds are.
"There was almost a perfect relationship between the power of the wind and the power of the wind-generated noise," said MIT's director of undersea remote sensing and a researcher in the project Nicholas Makris.
In the future, weather trackers could place the hydrophones underwater before the storm approaches and remotely monitor the results, leading to a cost of just a fraction of conventional hurricane measuring techniques.
Moreover, say scientists, the technology could also be used to more effectively study climate change. According to MIT, the hydrophones can measure the amount of sea salt coming into the atmosphere, which it says is an indicator of the planet's climate.