The University of Miami's Centre for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS) ground station has an agreement to acquire ASAR and MERIS data direct from Envisat, with ERS-2 wind scatterometer data set to follow in the near future. Their access to Envisat data has come just as the second hurricane in less than a month is heading towards the Florida coast.
"With MERIS and ASAR, Envisat can image both the ocean and atmosphere pretty much simultaneously, which is a very useful capability during hurricane season," said Hans Graber, Professor of Applied Marine Physics at the University of Miami and Co-Director of CSTARS.
While MERIS returns detail on the swirling clouds at the top of the hurricane, ASAR pierces right through the clouds to show the wind-wracked face of the sea beneath the storm.
"Specifically in terms of Frances, the eye of the hurricane seems to be rolling a lot right now from the top of the clouds, looking quite unstable, the information from an ASAR image should help localise its size and position on the ocean," Graber said. "And wind fields around the eye wall can be derived from ASAR data right now all we have to go on are measurements from the hurricane hunter planes that fly right through the storm."
Simultaneous MERIS and ASAR acquisitions are planned for Friday by CSTARS, even as the storm comes closer to predicted landfall the following morning.
"Our current activity is along the lines of a shakedown we're investigating how this can be used," added Graber. "Our final goal is to get this working on an operational basis during hurricane season. We have a deal to use radar data from the Canadian Space Agency, and also have access to other satellite resources for high temporal coverage of the affected region.