Hurricane-chasing drone captures Fiona’s 50ft waves

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An unmanned, hurricane-chasing drone has captured footage of nearly 50 feet waves at the centre of Hurricane Fiona.

“Saildrone 1078” recorded the enormous waves and wind speeds over 100 mph on Thursday in the midst of the first Category 4 hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic season.

Hurricane Fiona has wreaked a path of destruction across Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands this week, leaving up to eight people dead and hundreds of thousands without power and water.

The storm pummeled Bermuda with heavy rains and winds on Friday, and is now tracking towards the province of Nova Scotia with warnings that it could be the strongest-ever hurricane to hit Atlantic Canada.

It is the second year of the joint project between the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Saildrone, the company behind the autonomous, wind-powered vehicles, which are providing new insights into intensifying hurricanes.

The climate crisis is driving up ocean and air temperatures globally, and supercharging hurricanes with more heavy rain and powerful winds.

SD 1078 is one of seven “hurricane” saildrones operating in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season, gathering data to better understand the physical processes of hurricanes. The aim is to improve forecasting and reduce loss of life during the extreme weather events.

“Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and loss of life,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO, in a statement.

“The data Saildrone vehicles are gathering will help the science community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”

A Canadian meteorologist told CNN that Hurricane Fiona “could be Canada’s version of (Hurricane) Sandy”, the catastrophic 2012 hurricane which slammed into the US East Coast.