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For release: Sept. 8, 1995

Michael Finneran
(757) 864-8150



Three NASA research planes, including a former spy jet, will probe Hurricane Luis with lasers and other instruments on Saturday, Sept. 8, as the storm system churns the Atlantic off the East Coast.

The aircraft will examine the inflow of water vapor to Luis in an effort to learn more about the dynamics of hurricanes, said Dr. Edward Browell of the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Browell is the project’s principal investigator.

"It’s a first for making any laser water vapor measurements around a hurricane," Browell said. "This will help us understand one of the sources of energy that help feed a hurricane. We have never previously been able to see the distribution of water vapor flowing into a hurricane, and that is an important source of energy for sustaining and intensifying a hurricane."

The aircraft will fly out of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.

One of the planes, a NASA ER-2 from Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., will fly over the hurricane at about 70,000 feet and take remote measurements using a laser system called the Langley Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Experiment (LASE). The ER-2 is an extensively refitted former spy plane known as the U-2. The LASE instrument aboard the ER-2 will transmit laser light down into the atmosphere and measure the amount of light reflected back to detect and measure the amount of water vapor present.

The LASE instrument aboard the ER-2 is the key experiment among the three flights, Browell said, and a precursor for space-based studies of the Earth’s climate.

A NASA C-130 from Wallops will underfly the ER-2 taking measurments of water vapor both remotely with a laser instrument and with instruments"in situ," or in the immediate vicinity of the plane. The C-130 will not fly into the storm but will skirt around the inflow region at varying altitudes up to 30,000 feet.

Hurricane Luis extends upward to about 55,000 feet.

A NASA Lear jet from Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, will fly near the western edge of Luis at 30,000 feet to 40,000 feet, also taking in-situ water vapor measurements.

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