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Category Archives: Hurricane Research

Braving the Eye of the Storm

Braving the Eye of the Storm

Research from drone penetration of hurricane eyewall published

The most dangerous part of the hurricane is the eye-wall close to the ocean. It’s where the storm draws energy from heat in the water, which influences how strong – and how quickly – the storm will develop. It’s also where the strongest winds lurk.

Direct and continuous observations of the lower eye-wall would help forecasters understand critical information about the storm’s development. NOAA P-3 “Hurricane Hunters” routinely fly through hurricane eyewalls to gather storm data, but avoid flying close to the ocean because conditions are too hazardous.

Now, a new research paper led by NOAA meteorologist Joseph Cione demonstrates that observations gathered by disposable drones from the most violent region of the storm can improve the performance of hurricane models used by forecasters.

In recent years, unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS for short, have become increasingly important tools for atmospheric researchers, because of their low cost, reliability, and ability to operate in hazardous conditions. NOAA began exploring the use of UAS in hurricanes in 2014. In 2017 and 2018,  Cione launched the Coyote unmanned aircraft into hurricanes Maria and Michael, two of the most powerful Atlantic basin hurricanes on record.

A depiction of Coyote research flights into hurricanes (a) Maria in 2017 and (b) Michael in 2018 showing location of flight and storm intensity. Credit: NOAA

A depiction of Coyote research flights into hurricanes (a) Maria in 2017 and (b) Michael in 2018 showing location of flight and storm intensity. Credit: NOAA

“All of the other systems we use to measure winds inside a storm give us a snapshot of what’s going on,” said Cione. “UAS observations are continuous in nature. This is a big leap forward in the application of unmanned systems for hurricane forecasting.”

The drones were able to collect measurements of temperature and pressure, wind speed and direction, humidity and sea surface temperature as low as 360 feet above the water and at wind speeds up to 194 miles per hour.

Scientists said the data collected by the Coyote was consistent with the limited number of observations collected by the P-3 from the eye-wall at low altitudes, which demonstrated the accuracy of the instruments.

Accurately describing current storm conditions is important to forecasters at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. With this small UAS platform, NOAA has the capability to get much closer to continuously monitoring  the maximum winds in a hurricane than is possible with manned aircraft or parachute-deployed dropwind sondes.

A depiction of the Coyote sUAS launch sequence. a) A Coyote is released in a sonobuoy canister from a NOAA P-3 aircraft. b) A parachute initially slows the descent. c) The canister falls away and the Coyote wings and stabilizers deploy. d) After the Coyote is in an operational configuration, the parachute releases. e) The motor starts and the Coyote levels out. f) TheCoyote attains level flight and begins operations. Courtesy Raytheon Corporation.

A depiction of the Coyote sUAS launch sequence. a) A Coyote is released in a sonobuoy canister from a NOAA P-3 aircraft. b) A parachute initially slows the descent. c) The canister falls away and the Coyote wings and stabilizers deploy. d) After the Coyote is in an operational configuration, the parachute releases. e) The motor starts and the Coyote levels out. f) TheCoyote attains level flight and begins operations. Courtesy Raytheon Corporation.

 

Preliminary experiments also show how data collected from UASs can improve analyses of storm structure, offering opportunities for future work using these new observing platforms, Cione said.

Analysis also shows the impact these data are expected to have on the temperature, pressure and humidity fields used in operational hurricane models.  This could improve initial conditions and provide potentially significant improvement to how these fields are described in operational hurricane models.

Co-author George Bryan, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used the unique data to conduct model evaluation, a key process in using observations to improve model predictions. Infrared sensors on the small UAS allow scientists to verify sea surface temperatures for NOAA’s coupled ocean-atmosphere forecast system. This provides the ability to identify where the models are not accurately representing estimates of the atmosphere near the ocean surface and provide correction. Such insight can be used in model updates to improve forecasts.

“Observations from small unmanned systems are so important,” said Ghassan Alaka, a NOAA scientist working on NOAA’s Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting Model.  “They can help us validate and improve models, including predictions of the storm’s maximum intensity and what’s going on in the storm’s inner core.”

The study has been accepted for publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available online.

For more information, please contact Erica Rule, Communications Director, NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory at erica.rule@noaa.gov

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11 Days in Dorian: AOML Hurricane Scientists Gather Data in Catastrophic Category 5 Storm

Catastrophic Hurricane Dorian will be long remembered as one of the Atlantic basin’s most powerful landfalling hurricanes.  NOAA Hurricane Hunters measured Dorian’s intensification from a weak tropical storm in the Caribbean to one of the Atlantic’s fiercest hurricanes.  The data they gathered were vital to protecting life and property, supporting NOAA’s efforts to warn vulnerable communities of approaching severe weather through accurate forecasts.

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AOML Hurricane Researchers Capture Hurricane Dorian’s Eye During Rapid Intensification

NOAA researchers have been working around the clock to collect vital data during Hurricane Dorian which is being used to improve present and future forecasts to protect and save vulnerable lives and property. Using technology aboard the NOAA Hurricane Hunter P-3 aircraft, AOML hurricane researchers were able to document the rapid intensification of Dorian as it approached the Bahamas.

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Storms Gather and Now Our Watch Begins

Hurricane season is officially upon us and researchers at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory are excited about new model developments and innovative technology to improve hurricane forecasting.  AOML’s deputy director, Molly Baringer, briefed Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Shalala on May 30th, 2019 about the science behind the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook and advancements led by AOML and other NOAA offices in the field of hurricane forecasting.

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Frank Marks, Sc.D. honored with the OAR Dr. Daniel L. Albritton Outstanding Science Communicator Award

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Dr. Daniel L. Albritton Outstanding Science Communicator Award recognizes outstanding achievement in communicating the meaning and value of NOAA-related science and research to non-scientific audiences. The award is named in honor of Dr. Daniel L. Albritton, a retired OAR scientist, who proved to be one of the most effective communicators of NOAA research and related science.

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AOML Celebrates First All-Female P-3 Science Team

AOML hurricane researchers supported nearly all of the 50 missions NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into eight tropical systems in 2018’s hurricane season, collecting data to help improve forecasts for future storms. The final flight into Hurricane Lane would make history for several reasons. Hurricane Lane was part of NOAA’s first hurricane deployment out of Hawaii, and one of those flights was led by the first all-female science crew on the flying laboratory. For Women’s History Month, we are proud to highlight this milestone and recognize the members of the first all-female science crew on a hurricane flight.

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HWRF High-Res Hurricane Model Bridges Research and Operational Communities

AOML drives improvements to hurricane forecasts by leveraging expertise in tropical cyclone observations, research, and modeling. Our numerical weather modeling team uses HWRF to test new technology and advance hurricane prediction through data collection, assimilation, and experimental modeling.

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NOAA and Raytheon Team Honored for Using Coyote UAS in Hurricane Research

NOAA AOML scientists attended the Aviation Week and Science Technology Laureate Awards in Washington D.C. to receive Aviation Week magazine’s prestigious Laureate award for Dual Defense Use. The NOAA/Raytheon team was recognized for using Raytheon Coyote Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to track and model hurricanes.

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Underwater Gliders Contribute to Atlantic Hurricane Season Operational Forecasts

Scientists strategically deployed the gliders during the peak of hurricane season, from July through November 2017, collecting data in regions where hurricanes commonly travel and intensify. The gliders continually gathered temperature and salinity profile data, generating more than 4,000 profiles to enhance scientific understanding of the air-sea interaction processes that drive hurricane intensification.

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HWRF Model Leads the Pack in Performance for 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Over the past 20 years, improvements in hurricane computer modeling, observational instrumentation, and forecaster training have greatly increased forecast accuracy. The many complex interactions that occur within the atmosphere remain to be fully understood, especially at the small scales associated with tropical cyclones. However, these milestones mark critical advances in numerical weather prediction that are paving the way to the next generation of NOAA models. While hurricanes cannot be controlled, vulnerability to these complex storms can be reduced through preparedness. Early warning and improved accuracy of forecasts can help save lives and reduce property damages caused by hurricanes.

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