On Sunday, July 17, the aircraft collected data during an eight-hour flight over Hurricane Emily. The hurricane is a powerful storm that has already caused extensive damage in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Flying at 65,000 feet, the ER-2 completed two passes over the eye of Emily, one of the most violent storms the NASA aircraft and pilot David Wright have ever experienced. Earlier in the month, the NASA aircraft and two P-3 aircraft operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had flown numerous missions over Hurricane Dennis.
"Hurricane Dennis was much kinder," said Wright after Sunday's flight. "Emily just didn't want me around."
A team of atmospheric scientists, engineers and aircraft personnel have taken up residence in San Jose, Costa Rica, during July studying how tropical storms become hurricanes during the Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) mission. The NASA team is working with NOAA and Costa Rican Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnologia (CENAT).
The TCSP team is conducting ground-based and airborne studies to measure the buildup and behavior of tropical storm systems on Costa Rica's east and west coasts. The airborne experiments are collecting temperature, humidity, precipitation, and wind information related to tropical cyclones and other phenomena that often lead to development of more powerful storms at sea. The field operations are also taking advantage of several NASA and NOAA satellites.
The aircraft and scientists have been tracking Emily since July 16 using some of the most sophisticated high-flying and ground-based weather research equipment.
"Instruments onboard the ER-2 recorded unprecedented detail of the hurricane vertical structure and precipitation levels," stated Jeff Halverson, TCSP deputy project manager from the NASA Goddard Space Center, Greenbelt, Md. "This was a very successful and interesting flight for the ER-2."
The eye-wall clouds powering Emily were extremely energetic and deep. Instruments carried by the ER-2 detected large amounts of lightning and thunderclouds rising to approximately 60,000 feet.
In addition to NASA Dryden, four other NASA centers and 10 American universities are partnering in the study.
For more information about TCSP, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/hurricane_2005.html
Photo of NASA's ER-2 are available at: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/ER-2/index.html
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