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NASA AMES COORDINATES HUGE HURRICANE OBSERVATION CAMPAIGN
Learning how to increase the warning time before Atlantic hurricanes make landfall is a goal of some100 U.S. researchers from NASA and other agencies who will a begin a 5-week campaign on Aug. 16.
Airborne researchers will fly above, around and through these weather monsters, and also will use satellites, balloons, unpiloted aircraft and ground-based instruments to gather hurricane data. Scientists from five NASA centers, several government agencies and 10 universities are cooperating to study tropical storms that erupt in the Atlantic Ocean.
"The Ames Earth Science Project Office is coordinating and managing the overall project," said Steve Hipskind, project manager at NASAs Ames Research Center in Californias Silicon Valley. Called the Fourth Convection And Moisture EXperiment (CAMEX-4), the scientific campaign begins Aug. 16 with a media day for journalists at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, FL. The project is scheduled to last until Sept. 24.
A major campaign goal is to produce more accurate hurricane predictions of storm landfall to decrease the size of coastal evacuations and to increase warning time. Researchers also are striving to reduce landfall track and intensity forecast errors and improve precipitation forecasts to enable more accurate inland flooding predictions.
"We will be making measurements in hurricanes with the NASA DC-8 and ER-2 aircraft out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station, FL," Hipskind said. "In addition, we will be flying a low-altitude uninhabited aerial vehicle (drone airplane), the Aerosonde. There will be ground instrumentation (several large weather radar and balloon soundings), as well as a large theoretical and satellite science team. Our collaborators include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Air Force Hurricane Hunters, both of which provide operational aircraft reconnaissance in hurricanes, as well as the NOAA Hurricane Research Division and the United States Weather Research Program." The National Science Foundation is providing researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research for the campaign.
Mike Craig of Ames is sharing project management responsibility with Hipskind. Craig is doing much of the planning with Hipskind and taking the field lead for the second half of the deployment. The large team of researchers will select hurricanes and study them as they approach landfall in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the United States. Aircraft operations will be within a 1,725-mile radius (2,760 km) of Jacksonville.
CAMEX-4 is focussed on the study of hurricane development, tracking, intensification and landfall impacts using NASA-funded aircraft and surface remote instruments. When possible, scientists will compare and validate measurements with coincident observations from the QuikSCAT, Terra and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellites. This study will yield high spacial and temporal information of hurricane structure, dynamics and motion. Scientists want to capture two complete "snapshots" of a hurricane.
The resulting data -- when analyzed within the context of more traditional aircraft, satellite and ground-based radar observations -- should provide additional insight to hurricane modelers and forecasters who strive to improve hurricane predictions.
NASA Ames is responsible for assuring the airworthiness and flight safety of the remotely piloted Aerosonde aircraft, and the overall operational readiness and collaborative agreements for all of the participating aircraft, according to Hipskind. Each Aerosonde weighs about 30 pounds (less than 15 kg) and will fly between 500 ft. and 1,500 ft. (150 m - 450 m) in the hurricanes winds to gather data and send it back to researchers. Should one of the tiny uninhabited aircraft be sucked up to higher altitudes, controllers would send a signal to destroy it to avoid a collision with another aircraft.
"Ames also has participating scientists," Hipskind said. "Paul Bui is the principal investigator for the meteorological measurement system for the DC-8 aircraft, and Lenny Pfister is the co-investigator on both Paul's experiment, as well as a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA) laser hygrometer on the DC-8." A hygrometer is an instrument that measures humidity in the air.
Buis experiment includes three major systems on the DC-8 airplane that normally flies at a medium altitude between 20,000 ft. and 40,000 ft. ( 6,000 m - 12,000 m). The systems will measure air velocity to give scientists a three-dimensional picture of wind directions. Bui also will provide extremely accurate temperature measurements, critical to understanding details of hurricane cloud formation.
While remote sensing of the hurricane environment is the primary objective of CAMEX-4, separate flights will study thunderstorm structure, precipitation systems and atmospheric water vapor profiles. The objective of these flights is to improve precipitation estimates from microwave instruments, particularly to validate NASA satellite measurements.
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