NOAA’s hurricane hunter aircraft carry a unique radar that measures wind in hurricanes where there is rain. Located in the tail of the aircraft and known as the Tail Doppler Radar, this instrument produces images that can provide detailed pictures scientists use to study storm structure and changes. Scientists can also piece together wind speed information gathered over the course of a flight to paint a complete picture of the wind speed in the regions of the storm where the aircraft flies.
As a hurricane approaches landfall, citizens are hoping that they are adequately prepared for the potential damage from strong winds and rising oceans. NOAA’s job is to forecast the storm location and strength, or intensity, to help communities make the best informed decisions. For many scientists, predicting intensity is a challenge at the forefront of hurricane research, and in recent years advancements in observations and modeling have improved NOAA’s forecasts of intensity by 20%. We are now at the point where scientists can observe and predict with very fine detail what is happening in the inner core of the storm.
This hurricane season, NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research will work with NOAA’s National Weather Service to upgrade weather forecast models and conduct research with unmanned air and water craft to improve forecasts of hurricane track and intensity.A highlight this season is the upgrade of the operational Hurricane Weather Research and Forecast system (HWRF), an advanced hurricane prediction model. This year’s version now has increased the resolution from 3 to 2 kilometers, and will use tail Doppler radar data collected from the NOAA P-3 and G-IV hurricane hunter aircraft to improve the storm representation within the model.