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NASA's Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes Mission in Costa Rica
Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

Status Report: 05-123

NASA’s ER-2 airplane departs the San Juan Santa Maria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, on July 6, 2005. During the night of July 22 and into the morning of July 23, NASA's ER-2 flew its ninth science mission as part of the Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) mission in Costa Rica.

NASA's ER-2 and NOAA's P3 rendezvoused at midnight July 22 over the tropical wave in the Caribbean -- an area of relatively low pressure, or a "trough," moving west through the eastern trade winds. Tropical waves typically are associated with heavy cloud cover and showers, and often indicate development of a tropical cyclone, or hurricane.

This wave, which developed over the Yucatan Peninsula, was monitored by TCSP scientists, including NASA and NOAA researchers, for about 36 hours prior to the mission. They used weather satellites, Mexican weather radar and computer forecast models to verify the wave's potential to form a hurricane. The scientists then planned a joint flight to survey the tropical disturbance over the Yucatan Peninsula and surrounding water.

The aircraft did not pinpoint a well-defined vortex within the larger wave structure, though there was evidence of broad, weak circulation in the middle atmosphere. Tropical thunderstorms were most vigorous on the eastern side, over the warm waters of the Yucatan Strait. It was clear the disturbance was still in the early stages of organization, and TCSP scientists intend to continue studying it as it travels and strengthens.

Since the flight, NOAA's Tropical Prediction Center has upgraded the tropical wave to Tropical Depression #7 ("Gert") of the Atlantic hurricane season.

TCSP participants include NOAA-HRD, five NASA centers, 10 American universities and partner agencies in Costa Rica. For more information about TCSP on the Web, visit:

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