Hurricane Hunter’s plane has gone where it’s never been before

Now, Hurricane Hunter has raised the bar and entered new territory. literally.

Dr. Jason Dunion, NOAA Research Division meteorologist and lead scientist on the new mission, said:

“We consider the flight we just made to be pioneering,” he stressed. “We’ve never taken NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters out into the Far East. We kind of opened the door to try and do more science.”

Until now, hurricane hunters have only surveyed storms roughly halfway across the Atlantic.

But last month, NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters “hunted” a potential storm across the Atlantic for the first time, near the Cape Verde Islands, on a landmark mission from August 9-12.

“A lot of hurricanes come from African nurseries,” explained Danion. “It is located just south of the Sahara Desert, produces very few tropical disturbances from its nursery, and is the source of more than half of the named storms we see in the Atlantic and about 80% of the major hurricanes we see. accounts for 85%.”

West Africa is a hurricane ‘seedbed’

A “seedbed” is a breeding ground for hurricanes. By studying storms before they form, we can determine earlier which storms will form and which ones will disappear, greatly improving our forecasts.

The data they collected reveals why storms follow certain directions, why some get stronger and others get weaker, and which storms are worth haunting for a week or more on a long transatlantic journey. to

View from NOAA's Hurricane Hunter aircraft. Take off for your first mission from Cape Verde.

“The advantage of working in Cape Verde is that we can observe more and sooner of what is really happening in the atmosphere. You can get it,” outlined Project Aircraft Captain Jason Mansour. Commander.

He’s one of nine crew members alongside Danion, and jumping into a hurricane is nothing new for either of them. They are experiencing the worst weather on earth.Danion remembered an experience in flight 2019 Hurricane Dorian.

“That was when it was intensifying from Category 5 to Category 5+. I felt like a feather in the wind that day,” Danion recalled, adding: A person launched into space will feel. ”

The August mission was different. The crew didn’t face a Category 5 storm hitting the United States, but the science behind the mission could be just as powerful.

Study storms before they occur near Africa and make better predictions closer to home

“What we do is about national security. It’s about making sure the public knows, ‘Am I in danger? Should I evacuate? That’s the area of ​​expertise for NOAA, the US scientific agency,” Monsour emphasizes. “By ensuring we have the best possible data, we can make the best possible decisions.”

Jason Dunion analyzes real-time data from turbulence near Cape Verde as a Hurricane Hunter aircraft flies through a storm.

Data collected from tropical waves feed into computer models used to predict storms. Forecasts are now reliable until about 5 days later. Moreover, it is not.

If real-time data can be fed into the computer model when the storm is across the Atlantic, the model will have far less “guessing” to properly initialize the storm.

Today, predictive models basically guess where the center of a storm is until a Hurricane Hunter aircraft can fly through it and pinpoint where the center is. Missing early data can lead to many errors in long-term tracking of storms.

Here's why hurricane hunters fly planes into storms in strange patterns.

If the Hurricane Hunter has been flying through the storm since the time the hurricane started, there will be much less guesswork to be done, and hurricane path and intensity predictions will be greatly improved. This improvement will enable everyone from government officials to emergency managers to the general public to plan for hurricanes more efficiently and effectively.

“The Hurricane Center is currently forecasting up to five days into the future likelihood of storms, and we’ll see when it becomes a seven-day forecast,” explained Danion. is looking out for seven days, you need to look further east. [Cape Verde].”

Role of Sahara dust in suppressing the development of hurricanes

Saharan dust is often referred to as a “choking storm” during hurricane season. The dry air associated with dust off the west coast of Africa creates a hostile environment for hurricanes and impedes their growth and development.

The crew flew into the Cape Verde Islands during the dust storms of the Sahara, and the crew were awed by seeing it first hand.

“It was incredible to step onto the ground in Cape Verde and see this layer of dust with my own eyes,” Monsour said. This is great, but seeing it in action with my own eyes was very unexpected and very impressive.”

The view from NOAA's Hurricane Hunter aircraft overlooking a thick layer of Saharan dust.

Monsour and Danion described it as an “eerie fog” when the dust of the Sahara desert approaches Africa.

In the past, hurricane hunters flew much closer to the United States, so Saharan dust was more diffuse across the Atlantic. This was the first time the crew had seen dust lift off the continent. They said the view was breathtaking.

“These incredible views of dusty skies are about a 1 to 3 mile layer in the atmosphere, and this layer of dust, really thick dust,” Danion explained.

View from the cockpit of a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft after landing in Sal, Cape Verde after a mission.

The crew hopes to take on another mission to the Cape Verde Islands this hurricane season, but Mother Nature will decide when that happens.

The storms they surveyed in early August did not become tropical, but as the Dunion crew took a new era of prediction to new heights, the storms that formed were as much as those that didn’t. A lot can be learned, Dunion pointed out.

“If we want science to advance, we have to take these steps,” Danion argued. ”

Track Two Named Systems

last week, Two systems in the tropics have been nameds, let’s take a look at Daniel and Earl this week. Neither system poses a threat to the continental United States, but could be of interest if you’re traveling.

Tropical Storm Earl is located approximately 175 miles north of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. The storm is expected to continue northward over the next few days. Earl is now sustaining 50 mph winds and is getting even more gusty.

The National Hurricane Center said, “Expected to slowly intensify over the next few days, Earl could turn into a hurricane later this week.

Earl moves away from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but the influence can still be felt on the islands.

“Earl is expected to produce an additional 1 to 4 inches of rainfall over the Leeward Islands, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico by Monday, bringing the total of isolated storms to 8 inches,” the Hurricane Center said. said.

On the current forecast track, Earl will pass east of Bermuda on Friday at hurricane strength.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Hurricane Daniel hits the open Atlantic with winds of 90 mph. Daniel is expected to slowly weaken over the next few days as it moves northeast. By early next week, Daniel’s wreckage could affect England, bringing rain and wind to the region.

Finally, there are the tropical waves off the coast of Africa, which the Hurricane Center also monitors. They give him a 40% chance that the system will be developed in the next few days.


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