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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: 05-125

NASA’s ER-2 airplane departs the San Juan Santa Maria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, on July 6, 2005. On July 24, NASA's ER-2 and NOAA's P3 Orion hurricane hunter aircraft made their second coordinated flight into an intensifying tropical disturbance off the Mexican coast -- the latest successful research flights in NASA's Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) mission in Costa Rica.

A day earlier, both aircraft flew coordinated flight patterns into "Atlantic Tropical Depression 7," near the Yucatan Peninsula. On that flight, the planes identified the start of broad circulation in middle levels of the atmosphere, and documented moderately intense tropical thunderstorms embedded within the circulation. As the aircraft tracked the disturbance, it transformed into a true tropical cyclone, and was renamed Tropical Storm Gert -- the seventh named tropical storm system of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The ER-2 and P3 Orion flew coordinated patterns, the former traveling at 65,000 feet, the latter near 14,000 feet. Together, the aircraft were able to investigate the broad depth of the tropical atmosphere that incubates weather disturbances. Initial studies focused on an intensifying region of vigorous tropical thunderstorms, which release energy into the atmosphere. If this release occurs in an area where winds happen to be spinning, "cyclogenesis" -- the birth of a tropical cyclone -- may result.

During the July 24 mission, the aircraft were able to observe an area of rotation within the remnants of the tropical thunderstorms. Data suggested the area of rotation was intensifying, possibly building from atmospheric mid-levels down to the ocean surface.

Observations such as these, made during the hours when a tropical weather system transforms from a depression to a named storm, may prove crucial in unlocking the secrets of hurricane genesis in the Atlantic Ocean.

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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