Summer missions planned to learn more about storm formation, intensification and the role of dry and dusty Saharan air
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with several government and university partners, NASA will use unmanned aircraft to try and unravel some of the mysteries of hurricane formation and intensification in the Atlantic Basin.
Among other things, the Global Hawk aircraft will study the role of the hot, dry and dusty Saharan air layer in tropical storms. Existing research on how that air mass affects hurricanes has not delivered conclusive results.
The missions will also examine the extent to which deep convection in the inner-core region of storms is a key driver of intensity change or just a response to storms finding favorable sources of energy.
The aircraft will fly out of a base in Virginia, soaring at elevations of more than 60,000 feet and staying airborne for up to 28 hours. Global Hawks were previously used in the agency’s 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes hurricane mission and the Global Hawk Pacific environmental science mission.
“Hurricane intensity can be very hard to predict because of an insufficient understanding of how clouds and wind patterns within a storm interact with the storm’s environment. HS3 seeks to improve our understanding of these processes by taking advantage of the surveillance capabilities of the Global Hawk along with measurements from a suite of advanced instruments,” said Scott Braun, HS3 mission principal investigator and research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
“One aircraft will sample the environment of storms while the other will measure eyewall and rainband winds and precipitation,” Braun said.
HS3 will examine the large-scale environment that tropical storms form in and move through and how that environment affects the inner workings of the storms.
Most of these instruments aboard the aircraft represent advanced technology developed by NASA that in some cases are precursors to future satellite sensors.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Global Hawk aircraft will deploy to Wallops Flight Facility from their home base at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
“HS3 marks the first time that NASA’s Global Hawks will deploy away from Dryden for a mission, potentially marking the beginning of an era in which they are operated regularly from Wallops,” said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard and deputy principal investigator on the HS3 mission.
From rockets studying the upper atmosphere to unmanned aircraft flying over hurricanes, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is fast becoming a busy place for science. Wallops is one of several NASA centers involved with the HS3 mission. Others include Goddard, Dryden, Ames Research Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, tropical storms and hurricanes Tagged: | 2012 Hurricane season, Atlantic hurricanes, Global Hawk, Goddard Space Flight Center, hurricane research, Wallops Flight Facility