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NASA HS3 Mission Animations Peer in and Outside of Tropical Cyclones
September 10, 2013

NASA released three hurricane research-related animations during this peak week of hurricane season. NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel or HS3 mission is flying two unmanned aircraft to explore tropical cyclones and their environment, and these animations show how the HS3's HIWRAP instrument can examine the inner workings and environment of a storm. A third video highlights HS3's Cloud Physics Lidar or CPL instrument during an investigation of the Saharan Air Layer.

The Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel or HS3 mission began this hurricane season on Aug. 20 and runs through Sept. 23 and features NASA's two remotely piloted Global Hawks. During the mission, both aircraft are being flown remotely from the HS3 mission base at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. Global Hawk aircraft are well-suited for hurricane investigations because they can fly for as long as 26 hours and over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 55,000 to 60,000 feet.

The first Global Hawk, NASA 872, flew for HS3 in 2012. The second Global Hawk, NASA 871, is flying for HS3 for the first time, and carrying a payload of a Doppler radar for wind and precipitation measurements, a microwave radiometer for surface wind measurements, and a microwave sounder for the measurement of atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles. The radar and microwave instruments will fly aboard NASA 871 for the first time in HS3 and will focus on the inner region of the storms.

[image-51][image-76][image-90]The High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Airborne Profiler (HIWRAP) conically scanning Doppler radar, the Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRAD), and the High-Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) microwave sounder are new to the mission this year. Because these instruments previously participated in NASA’s GRIP (Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes) experiment that studied hurricanes during the 2010 season, data was used to create the new animations.

The first animation using HIWRAP data examines eye wall development in Hurricane Karl on September 16 and 17, 2010, a storm that intensified rapidly.

Wind measurements are crucial for understanding and forecasting tropical storms since they are closely tied to the overall dynamics of the storm. The HIWRAP is able to measure line-of-sight and ocean surface winds. The benefit of HIWRAP flying aboard a Global Hawk is that HIWRAP surface wind observations are available potentially for a longer period of time than satellite data.

HIWRAP scans are done in a cone-like shape, detecting winds in a tropical cyclone as the Global Hawk flies overhead. HIWRAP can measure winds within heavy rain throughout the troposphere.

The 40 second animation begins when HIWRAP flew over a "hot tower," a powerful, towering thunderstorm that NASA research has shown indicates a storm will usually intensify within 24 hours. In the movie, several of the paths have been placed in storm-centered coordinates and laid together to reveal the storm's hot towers and eye wall development. The animation is also color-coded to identify cloud heights. To see the full-resolution video, visit: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004000/a004035/

The second animation shows the viewer what HIWRAP measured in Hurricane on September 16, 2010 from 6:53 p.m. ET through 7:19 p.m. This 27 second animation focuses on the Global Hawk, then zooms out to take the viewer along one of the observed swaths over Hurricane Karl. The animation is also color-coded to identify cloud heights. To see the full-resolution video, visit: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004000/a004036/

The third animation highlights the Cloud Physics Lidar instrument investigating the Saharan Air Layer or SAL. The HS3 mission will address the controversial role of the hot, dry and dusty SAL in tropical storm formation and intensification and the extent to which deep convection in the inner-core region of storms is a key driver of intensity change.

The CPL is an airborne lidar system designed specifically for studying clouds and aerosols and joins HIWRAP in this year's HS3 mission. The CPL uses a laser to measure vertical profiles of dust; a dropsonde system that releases small instrumented packages from the aircraft that fall to the surface while measuring profiles of temperature, humidity, and winds; and an infrared sounder that measures temperature and humidity in clear-sky regions. CPL will study cloud- and dust-layer boundaries and will provide optical depth or thickness of aerosols and clouds.

The third animation shows CPL data from Sept. 11 and 12, 2012 when it flew aboard NASA's Global Hawk aircraft during the 2012 HS3 mission. The flight covered more than one million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) going back and forth over a storm in a gridded fashion in what's called a "lawnmower pattern." Dropsonde data from HS3's flights read temperature and humidity conditions in the storm. The 1 minute and 50 second animation showed dry air at upper levels, moist air at lower levels. For the CPL animation investigating the Saharan Air Layer, visit: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004100/a004102/.

HS3 is a mission that brings together several NASA centers with federal and university partners to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. Among those factors, HS3 will address the controversial role of the hot, dry and dusty Saharan Air Layer in tropical storm formation and intensification and the extent to which deep convection in the inner-core region of storms is a key driver of intensity change.

For the HIWRAP animation monitoring Eye Wall Development, visit:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004000/a004035/

For the HIWRAP animation of the Global Hawk measuring winds, visit:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004000/a004036/

For the CPL animation investigating the Saharan Air Layer, visit:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004100/a004102/

For all NASA H3 Mission high-resolution videos, visit:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a011000/a011039

 

 

Rob Gutro
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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The Global Hawk UAV flies over Hurricane Karl to reveal a hot tower. Red shows reflectivity that is 12 km from the surface, orange is 10 km, yellow is 7.5 km, green is 6 km, and blue is under 6 km.This movie shows the eyewall of the storm develop as the UAV monitors from above.
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The Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle records High Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Profiler (HIWRAP) KU data of Hurricane Karl on September 16, 2010.
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This animation shows how NASA scientists investigated the Saharan Air Layer during Hurricane Nadine. The blue to white data in the curtains is backscatter from cloud physics lidar. The dropsonde data pillars show relative humidity where blue represents dry air and red represents moist air.
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Page Last Updated: September 11th, 2013
Page Editor: Karl Hille