Hurricane Hunters: Our Eyes in the Sky to Critical Data on Harvey (Credit: NOAA & Keesler AFB)
DISCUSSION: As early as August 17th, Hurricane Hunters have investigated the beginning of what was Harvey amid shower and thunderstorm activity from a potential tropical wave seen on August 13th care of the National Hurricane Center.
Initial reconnaissance began with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Keesler Air Force Base. Air Force reconnaissance coupled with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters play an integral role in providing information to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Data collected during hurricanes via heavily equipped aircraft allow for improvement to forecasts, providing assistance in inner storm fluxes, tendencies and intensity.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron made over 10 flights into Harvey utilizing dropsondes to transmit data to the National Hurricane Center. The critical data that the NHC received was able to upgrade Harvey to a tropical depression by August 23rd, 1500 UTC, by August 24th 0600 UTC Harvey gained tropical storm status only several hours later to become hurricane by 1700 UTC.
NOAA in particular utilizes 2 types of aircraft to gather data in effort to increase understanding of a storms processes.
P-3 Orion: This particular aircraft has a flight path which typically includes directly into the storm. Armed with scientists and/or military personnel, those aboard can utilize dropsondes, to evaluate wind, temperature, pressure, and humidity within the storm. In addition to GPS which may be added to the dropsonde the P-3 is equipped with tail Doppler radar in conjunction with fuselage mounted radar, which allow scientist onboard to have real-time storm data. The addition of NOAAs Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometers (SFMRs) have changed the way forecasters view storm surge due to their ability to measure “over-ocean wind speed and rain rates” within storms. Not forgetting the deployable bathythermographs onboard that are able to measure the ocean temperature, a good measure of energy needed for ample formation.
Gulfstream IV-SP (G-IV): The Gulfsteam’s ability to fly at such a high altitude of 45,000 ft allows it to investigate the upper atmosphere especially during developing systems. Not shy to dropsonde and tail Doppler radar, this aircraft can view the upper atmospheric currents that may aid in determining storm propagation.
For more information on aviation, hurricane hunters or weather visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
“Aircraft Operations.” NOAA Hurricane Hunters | Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, 2 June 2017, www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/aircraft-operations/about/hurricane-hunters. Accessed 30 Aug. 2017.
“Air Force Hurricane Hunters Track Harvey.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 25 Aug. 2017, www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1290882/air-force-hurricane-hunters-track-harvey/. Accessed 30 Aug. 2017.
A State-of-the-Art Perspective on a Slowly Weakening Tropical Storm Harvey (credit: NASA SPoRT)
DISCUSSION: As the world continued to watch former Major Hurricane Harvey gradually weaken since the earlier morning hours of Saturday, this did not mean in any way whatsoever that southern and southeastern Texas was "out of the woods yet." Even as Major Hurricane Harvey made landfall, within the first hour or so after its official landfall, it was quite stubborn to begin to weaken as there still continued to be an effective transfer of energy from the surface of the ocean near the immediate coastline of the far northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, for those people which chose to ride out the storm near the Corpus Christi metro area (and points to the north and northeast), this major hurricane continued to batter the immediate coastline and semi-inland areas within 20 to 30 miles of the point of land with prolonged sustained winds of 120 to 140 MPH before the storm finally began to lose steam as it slowly moved further inland.
In addition, besides the actual period of weakening which has now forced the system to be downgraded to Tropical Storm Harvey, there have been some very neat perspectives which have been captured by the GOES-16 satellite imager. One great example which is captured in both the image as well as the tweet attached above (courtesy of the NASA SPoRT Twitter account), is the combined 6-channel product which allows atmospheric scientists to clearly differentiate between newer, blossoming convection vs. older mature and/or soon-to-be dissipating convection. This differentiation can more easily and more effectively enable operational forecasters to make more timely and more accurate precipitation forecasts by being able to more quickly distinguish between newer and older convective cells with respect to what part of the typical convective life-cycle a particular convective cell is in (i.e., the cumulus or beginning stage, the mature stage, or the decaying stage).
As noted in the Tweet embedded above, the yellow-colored clouds indicate the presence of strong blossoming convection as opposed to the orange/red-colored cloud regions which indicate the presence of mature/dissipating convection. Thus, this product is revolutionary in terms of it being able to facilitate a smoother and more efficient recognition of different stages of convection within a larger system such as (but certainly not limited to) the currently weakening Tropical Storm Harvey. Just goes to show how a highly-advanced satellite imaging system can change the way we visualize and study the atmosphere and the world around us.
To learn more about other stories pertaining to neat scientific observation, be sure to click here!
©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is making due progress on its continual development of the GOES satellites, on the cusp of its most recent launch in November 2016 of GOES-16. Part of the latest GOES-R series is the addition of GOES-S and GOES-T to the family.
The GOES-R series is one of the most advanced series of satellites designed to provide unmatched data to meteorologists. GOES-R will relay information that will aid in observations, forecasting and will assist in monitoring, “aerosols, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, space weather, oceanography, climate monitoring, in-situ data collection and for search and rescue” according to NASA.
GOES-R boasts an impressive instrumentation package including, “Earth sensing, solar imaging, and space environment measurement payloads. There are six primary instruments: the Advanced Baseline Imager; the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors, which includes an Extreme Ultraviolet Sensor, X-Ray Sensor, EUVS/XRS Electrical Box, and Sun Positioning Sensor; the Geostationary Lightning Mapper; the Magnetometer; the Space Environment In-Situ Suite, which includes an Energetic Heavy Ion Sensor, Magnetospheric Particle Sensor – Low Energy Range, Magnetospheric Particle Sensor – High Energy Range, Solar and Galactic Proton Sensor, and Data Processing Unit; and the Solar Ultraviolet Imager” as stated by NASA.
GOES-S is scheduled for launch in spring 2018 with an estimated launch for GOES-T in 2020. When launched GOES-S will be renamed at GOES-17, and GOES-18 for GOES-T.
For information on other GOES products stay tuned to the Global Weather and Climate Center for updates!
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Jenner, Lynn. “GOES-R.” NASA, NASA, 4 Mar. 2015, www.nasa.gov/content/goes-r/index.html. Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.
“NOAA's GOES-S and GOES-T Satellites Coming Together.” NESDIS News & Articles, 3 Aug. 2017, www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/noaa%E2%80%99s-goes-s-and-goes-t-satellites-coming-together. Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.