NASA BRAVES STORMS IN QUEST FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HURRICANES
August 15, 2001
Release: 01-59 Printer Friendly Version
As this year's hurricane season arrives, a team of researchers participating in a NASA study is ready. Armed with airplanes from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., robotic aerial vehicles and a fleet of sophisticated instruments, the researchers are ready to meet these potentially deadly and destructive storms head-on, gathering data vital to improve hurricane modeling and prediction.
They are taking part in the Convection And Moisture Experiment (CAMEX) - the fourth in a series of field investigations sponsored by the Earth Science Enterprise at NASA Headquarters, Washington D.C. The mission unites researchers from 10 universities, five NASA centers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Based out of the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Fla., this year's mission takes place Aug. 16 through Sept. 24 - traditionally the most active part of the hurricane season. During CAMEX, researchers will gather storm data from multiple sources, including aircraft, unpiloted aerial vehicles, satellite observations, ground-based radar and other sensing instruments. Unique in this mission is the fact that each storm will be monitored simultaneously from near sea level to 65,000 feet.
Temperature, pressure, humidity, precipitation, wind speed, ice crystal sizes, and lightning characteristics are examples of the kinds of information that will be collected. These data are expected to provide additional insight to hurricane researchers and forecasters who continually strive to improve hurricane predictions.
"One reason NASA studies hurricanes is to understand the best way to use information from NASA resources, such as its satellites, to provide better warnings to the American public and people around the world affected by hurricanes," said Robbie Hood, CAMEX mission scientist from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
"During the last CAMEX experiment in 1998, we flew over hurricanes and collected a vast amount of data, sampling the hurricanes' upper regions at altitudes of 35,000 feet or higher," said Hood. "This year, we're asking ourselves additional questions, such as, 'How does a hurricane intensify?' and "What is its rainfall potential after it comes to shore?' The highest number of hurricane-related deaths are due to inland flooding, so inland rainfall is something we will be monitoring very closely."
NASA Dryden's ER-2 and DC-8 will fly into the season's hurricanes carrying a suite of scientific instruments to study selected storms as they approach landfall in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the United States.
The DC-8, equipped with instruments that will measure the storms' structure, environment and changes in intensity and tracking, will fly into storms at 35,000 to 40,000 feet. At the same time, the specially equipped ER-2, a high-altitude research aircraft, will soar above storms at 65,000 feet.
Although investigating hurricanes is the primary objective of CAMEX-4, separate flights will study thunderstorm structure, precipitation systems and atmospheric water vapor profiles. This portion of CAMEX-4 is known as Keys Area Microphysics Project (KAMP). The project seeks improved precipitation estimates from passive and active microwave instruments - equipment that detects precipitation and surface water by measuring natural microwave emissions from cloud water, cloud ice, rainfall and surface water. Flights for the microphysics project will take place in the area of Key West, Fla.
CAMEX-4 is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research program dedicated to better understanding the total Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment.
--nasa-- Note to Editors: Further information on CAMEX 4 is available at: http://CAMEX.msfc.nasa.gov
Photographs of the DC-8 and ER-2 are available at: /centers/dfrc/Gallery/Photo/index.html
NASA Dryden news releases are also available on the Internet at: /centers/dfrc/Newsroom/NewsReleases/index.html