Tropical cyclones are a recurrent phenomenon on the islands of the southwest Indian Ocean, such as Madagascar, where people expect to be affected by an average of 1.5 cyclones a year. Unfortunately, the most inhabited area are the ones most exposed to these devastating air masses.
Predicting cyclones, however, can go a long way towards mitigating the impacts on the communities in the area. Now, that may be a lot easier thanks to a special envoy of sea turtles on a mission to help scientists learn more about cyclones.
The loggerhead turtles’ mission starts on Reunion Island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean, where scientists have fitted them with special tags to help them collect data about cyclones.
The project is called STORM (Seat Turtles for Ocean Research and Monitoring) and is the result of a partnership between Kelonia care center and the Atmosphere and Cyclone Laboratory of the University of La Réunion.
Since STORM started two years ago, around thirty turtles have been equipped with the so-called ‘Argos tags’ and then released into the Indian Ocean. Another four joined the ocean monitoring squad last week, reports euronews.
The tags are attached to the shells of the turtles, which are known to travel an average of 15,000km during their lifetime. The reptiles often travel close to the center of cyclones, areas that satellites cannot cover. Due to the tags, the turtles can now transmit real-time data to researchers about water temperature, salinity, and conductivity levels in the ocean.
By combining the data shared by the turtles with meteorological and ocean information, scientists are now able to learn more about tropical cyclones. This helps them to detect and track these giant atmospheric heat engines and predict when they’re likely to hit coastal areas, potentially saving many lives as result.