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.
There aren’t many people who can say they have flown directly into a hurricane, but on October 5, 2016, I had a very unique opportunity to fly into Hurricane Matthew with NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters. Matthew was quickly moving across the Atlantic Ocean, and each new forecast moved it closer to the East Coast of Florida. With the high potential for hurricane watches and warnings, NOAA started preparations for routine flight operations.
With hurricane season in full swing, NOAA will host a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) about the Science of Hurricane Hunting to Improve Forecasts on September 22, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. Hurricane scientist Frank Marks, Sc.D., Director of the Hurricane Research Division at AOML, and P-3 hurricane hunter pilot Commander Justin Kibbey of the NOAA Corps will answer questions. The first half of hurricane season has produced a significant number of storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This AMA is a great opportunity to answer questions about how and why we study these storms.
NOAA Hurricane Hunters are flying back-to-back missions to study the newly developed Tropical Storm Hermine in the Gulf of Mexico, capturing its evolution from a cluster of thunderstorms into a tropical storm. Getting data during such transitions can help improve hurricane models which currently don’t predict transitions well. Our understanding of the physical processes of early storm development remains limited, largely because there are few observations.
Scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) are at the vanguard of hurricane research. Each hurricane season we fly into storms, pore over observations and models, and consider new technological developments to enhance NOAA’s observing capacity and improve track and intensity forecasts. The 2016 hurricane season will provide an opportunity for our scientists to test some of the most advanced and innovative technologies and refined forecasting tools to help better predict a storm’s future activity.
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.
Early on the morning of August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Louisiana delta region and the Mississippi coast. The storm surge brought enormous damage to the Gulf Coast and, when the levees around New Orleans failed, a great number of fatalities. Coming amidst the very busy 2005 hurricane season, Katrina brought death and destruction not seen in a U.S. land-falling hurricane in decades.
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.
Hurricane Danny & Tropical Storm Erika Provide Wealth of Research Opportunities for the 2015 Hurricane Field Program
AOML’s hurricane researchers conducted a number of field activities in August that provided data and critical insights into two Atlantic tropical cyclones, Danny and Erika. The two storms enabled researchers to test new instruments in support of the 2015 Hurricane Field Program and conduct research that will benefit future forecasts. Among the highlights were more than 15 successful manned and unmanned aircraft missions into Danny and Erika to collect and provide real-time data to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), as well as evaluate forecast models.
The Atlantic hurricane season will officially end November 30, and will be remembered as a relatively quiet season as was predicted. Still, the season afforded NOAA scientists with opportunities to produce new forecast products, showcase successful modeling advancements, and conduct research to benefit future forecasts.