Fri, Apr 26, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Unprecedented typhoon data collected by buoys

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

National Taiwan University’s Institute of Oceanography student Hsieh Chia-ying, bottom, and senior marine technician Her Wen-hwa wave from one of two buoys the institute deployed in waters off the nation’s southeastern coast in 2016.

Photo courtesy of National Taiwan University’s Institute of Oceanography

Researchers at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Oceanography yesterday shared unprecedented data about super typhoons collected from two buoys deployed in the Pacific Ocean, adding that they would work with the Philippines to install similar buoys next year.

Then-institute director Wei Ching-ling (魏慶琳) in 2015 led a team to deploy the two buoys in waters off the nation’s southeast coast.

Engineer Chang Hung-i (張宏毅) developed key circuit boards on the US-made buoys for receiving maritime and weather data, while the buoys also carried Taiwanese devices for measuring temperature, ocean current, salinity, dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels of sea water, Wei told a news conference at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taipei.

The two areas are often in the trajectory of typhoons heading to Taiwan, institute associate professor Yang Yiing-jang (楊穎堅) said, adding that the buoys have resisted nine typhoons, including four super typhoons, thanks to their solid anchoring 5.5km below the surface.

Built at a cost of NT$10 million (US$323,572 at the current exchange rate) each, the buoys gathered unprecedented data of a super typhoon in 2016 when Typhoon Nepartak passed above them, Yang said, adding that the buoys were about 20km from the center of the eye of the typhoon.

In the four hours after Nepartak arrived in the area, the temperature of the water dropped by 1.5°C, data showed.

The typhoon only absorbed a little heat from upper sea levels, but it caused rapid stirring among different layers of the area, which scooped cold water from lower levels that cooled down the sea surface, thus restricting the typhoon’s growth, Yang said.

The data and images of the typhoons taken by the buoys’ instruments are conducive for advance weather forecasts, as scientists had been curious about a typhoon’s effects on sea temperature and they had no high-resolution images of typhoons at sea previously, Yang said.

The team detailed its findings in a paper titled “The role of enhanced velocity shears in rapid ocean cooling during Super Typhoon Nepartak 2016,” which was published in the journal Nature Communications on April 9, with Yang listed as the lead author.

The team has received a request for collaboration from the Philippines and plans to deploy a similar buoy in the waters off the east coast of the Philippines next year, Yang said.

Yang also expressed the hope that Taiwan would be able to join the UN’s World Meteorological Organization to share its oceanic and weather research results.

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