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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: 05-126

NASA’s ER-2 airplane departs the San Juan Santa Maria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, on July 6, 2005. From July 22-24, storm hunters with the NASA Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) experiment in Costa Rica have documented the near-complete lifecycle of a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical Storm Gert, though short-lived and modest in terms of intensity, developed from a tropical wave near the Yucatan coast on July 22, intensified to tropical storm status on July 24, and made landfall that night over Mexico's northeast coast, where it quickly dissipated. During its genesis, intensification and landfall, NASA's ER-2 high-altitude weather plane, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) P3 Orion aircraft flew five back-to-back missions, enabling near-continuous study of the poorly understood process of tropical cyclogenesis, or the birth of hurricanes.

Tropical cyclogenesis often occurs irregularly, with key atmospheric events happening in fits and starts. The phenomenon rarely occurs close enough to Mexican and U.S. coastal radars to document. The three consecutive NASA ER-2 flights and five NOAA P3 flights to study Gert are expected to help clarify the mechanisms involved in formation and maturity of a tropical cyclone, and are expected to deliver detailed, comprehensive datasets.

NASA's ER-2 flew over the eastern coast of Mexico the night of July 24, investigating the steep mountains' impact on Gert as the storm made landfall. Mountainous terrain is known to greatly enhance rainfall produced by moist tropical airflow, often leading to freshwater flooding -- the number one killer during tropical cyclone landfall in the western hemisphere. The ER-2 datasets, combined with satellite images and data collected by the network of Mexican weather radars, should reveal the detailed structure of Gert's rain bands, their intensity and how they were influenced by specific features of the landscape.

The TCSP mission is testimony to the successful cooperation between NASA and NOAA. Together, these agencies have investigated nearly a dozen tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean since 1998, part of NASA's Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX) mission. TCSP, conducted from Costa Rica throughout July 2005, carries on this tradition. TCSP participants include NOAA, five NASA centers, 10 American universities and partner agencies in Costa Rica.

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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