Planes, drones, Buoys: High-tech weather tools

News 6 Chief Meteorologist takes closer look at forecasting technology

You often see meteorologists on TV, telling you about the weather and what you can expect during the day ahead, but what you may not know is a lot of high-tech tools go into their forecast.

Part of their arsenal includes buoys.

Buoy Array (NOAA)

News 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells said they provide, “wave heights, temperatures, wind speed and direction, and maximum wind gusts.”

Sorrells added there are about 90 buoys along Florida’s coastline. That includes some near Cocoa Beach. One is 20 miles out, the other is about 110 miles out.

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Satellites have also come a long way in helping meteorologists do their jobs.

“The first time a satellite was used on a TV weathercast was 1964,” Sorrells said.

NASA weather satellite (NASA)

He said only one or two pictures of the sky were provided a day. Then the images started showing up in the newspaper.

Now with the latest technology, meteorologists get a satellite image every minute, or every 30 seconds during severe weather threats.

During severe weather, meteorologists also lean on the important information provided by hurricane planes.

On Talk to Tom, Sorrells said they are crucial and provide information such as, “wave heights, speeds, pressure drops, wind direction, how high up the highest winds are, what are they like closer to the surface, all kinds of stuff that we can’t figure out by just looking at it from a satellite.”

Planes aren’t the only tool helping meteorologists in the sky.

“Drones are the new hot thing,” Sorrells said. “If it’s not safe enough for the aircraft to go, the drones can get in there and get even lower.”

They were particularly helpful in Hurricane Ian.

“They thought maybe we had 100-mile-per-hour winds, it came back 110, 120,” Sorrells said. “So, people who otherwise would not be evacuated, were told to evacuate in those situations. Drones are going to be the answer for the future I believe.”

Learn more about the weather tools meteorologists use to bring you your daily weather forecast on Talk to Tom. You can watch it anytime on News 6+.

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About the Authors:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.