Arlington, Va., Native Helps Track Hurricanes for NASA
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
News release: 06-072
As the 2006 hurricane season approaches, NASA atmospheric scientist Michael Goodman and his colleagues are studying data from a critical 2005 study -- one that could shed new light on the origins of these massive superstorms, and help protect lives and property in the future.
Goodman, a native of Arlington, Va., is a lead atmospheric scientist and science data center manager for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. In July 2005, he went to San Jose, Costa Rica, with a team of hurricane hunters from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville -- the joint NASA-university science facility where he conducts his research.
In Costa Rica, during the month-long Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes mission, the team tracked two major Atlantic Ocean hurricanes at the height of their power, witnessed the entire lifecycle of a tropical storm -- and documented a number of storm-related firsts.
The mission, primarily intended to investigate the birthplace of eastern Pacific tropical cyclones, was more successful than anticipated, when a record-breaking early start to a busy Atlantic hurricane season added numerous other research opportunities to the mission. Highlights for the team included watching the rapid genesis of Hurricane Dennis, in a region of the Caribbean where such dramatic development is rare; tracking Tropical Storm Gert throughout its brief lifespan; and capturing astonishing imagery of Hurricane Emily, including unusually strong lightning activity inside the hurricane and powerful "eye wall" storm clusters rising to a rarely observed height of 60,000 feet.
Thanks to Goodman's team, mission scientists were able to juggle the extra load. Goodman served as principal investigator for the field study’s data management system -- a Web-driven, real-time data delivery system supporting the collection and dissemination of mission information, from the planning phase and field operations to post-experiment data analysis.
The system, designed by Goodman and NSSTC researchers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, provided field scientists, program and project managers, atmospheric researchers and computer modelers with timely access to surface and aircraft instrument data, key satellite observations, forecasts and other vital information.
"The Web-based TCSP data management system enabled scientists in the field, program managers at the base of operations and atmospheric scientists back home in the States to remotely monitor the progress of the experiments," Goodman said. "That widespread, real-time data accessibility added immense value to the mission, and helped deliver an enormous amount of data we’re still studying almost a year later."
During the project, NASA's ER-2 and NOAA's WP-3D Orion aircraft carried a complement of instruments that gathered the data for delivery to Goodman's team -- enabling use of real-time, streaming storm data for the first time. The team also employed small, unmanned aerial vehicles, balloon-borne weather probes and several NASA and NOAA satellites.
Mission researchers hope their studies will help explain "cyclogenesis," the confluence of storm phenomena that can give birth to a hurricane. Greater understanding of that process, Goodman says, could be vital to understanding how hurricanes evolve, intensify and travel -- the key to developing earlier, more accurate warning systems.
"Using NASA's satellite and airborne instruments to improve our understanding of the lifecycle of hurricanes will lead to improved computer modeling and forecasting of hurricane path and intensity," Goodman said. "These improvements ultimately will save lives."
Goodman earned a bachelor's degree in environmental science in 1978 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He received a master's degree in meteorology in 1980 from Florida State University in Tallahassee.
A 17-year NASA veteran, Goodman joined the Costa Rica study after a year-long Earth science program development post at NASA Headquarters in Washington. From 1998 to 2004, he managed a number of NASA Earth science data centers at the Marshall Center and the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, collating and disseminating data from NASA satellites and other research instruments. In 1998 and in 2001, Goodman’s team provided data management support for the July mission's predecessor, the successful Convection and Moisture Experiment, or CAMEX, research series conducted by NASA and NOAA. He is the author or co-author of 10 research publications.
Goodman is married to Robbie Hood of Neosho, Mo., also an atmospheric scientist at the Marshall Center and one of three mission leads during the mission to Costa Rica. Goodman and Hood reside in Madison, Ala., with their three children.
Co-founded and operated by NASA and a consortium of state research universities, the National Space Science and Technology Center conducts cutting-edge scientific study in various disciplines, including Earth science, space science, optics, information technology and propulsion. Its personnel also foster the education of future generations of scientists and engineers by working with and inspiring students and sharing time, resources and expertise with educators across Alabama and the Southeast United States.
For more information about TCSP and NASA hurricane research on the Web, visit: