Technology is continuing to transform the way that meteorologists predict hurricanes like Irene. Now, even Twitter is getting in on the action.
On their final flight into Hurricane Irene, NOAA's airborne hurricane hunters were busy gathering data from their onboard radar, air probes, and other sensors. It's all sent back to the National Hurricane Center in Miami as quickly as the plane's in-flight internet connection allows.
PHOTOS: Flight into Irene's eye
Saturday, during the team's final flight into the landfalling storm, one of the agency's top scientists took to Twitter to provide storm updates.
Dr. Frank Marks, the director of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division, typed out more than 20 tweets during the P-3's 12-hour mission from Tampa to the Outer Banks and back. He called it "Tweets from the Eye."
"NOAA43 in #Irene eye over barrier islands just south of Moorehead City, NC. appears surge over islands already. All rain is N of center," read one of the messages.
"I got adventurous," Marks said with a laugh after the flight. "I started with, you know, 'Here we are; we're coming up to the coast, we're going over Moorehead City. We're doing this, we're doing that.' Then I started sending pictures. I had a lot of fun and I was really into it."
Marks credited Shirley Murillo, the Hurricane Research Division's field program director, with the idea.
"I think it helps provide an awareness of what we're doing and a reason why we're doing it," she explained. "I think that the more the public is aware that we're collecting data to improve the forecasts, the more aware they are of what NOAA's mission is in terms of hurricanes."
Marks agreed, citing his own daughters as an example of the generation that expects information delivered to them -- instantly and interactively.
"We have to change the way we think and we have to change the way we communicate," he added. "It was funny. I went and looked at who was following us and I looked at the comments and I was getting all these, 'Oh wow, this is a neat page. They're out there right now!"
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