Mission Monday! This week, we are leaving the frigid weather of the poles for warmer climates and featuring NASA’s Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission! Last week, the National Weather Service announced the formation of the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2013 season. With so many people potentially affected by these severe weather systems, understanding tropical disturbance and cyclone formation and operation is essential to preparing for landfall events during a busy hurricane season.
Like Operation IceBridge, HS3 is a mission taking place here on Earth, through the use of two Global Hawk uninhabited aircraft. While one aircraft takes measurements around the periphery of a storm system, another flies directly into the storm, taking measurements in the heart of the action. Because these remotely controlled aircraft can fly for extended periods of time (over 24 hours without stopping!), extended data sets can be gathered on an individual storm. Combined with the ability to fly at a height of 65,000 feet (almost twice that of a commercial airliner), these aircraft can collect information over very large areas of the Earth, leading to more comprehensive information about severe weather systems.
The animation below shows how a Global Hawk flying through Hurricane Karl gathered information on the development of clouds around the eye wall of the storm:
While tracking the paths of hurricanes has improved greatly, there is still a lot to learn about the processes that lead to changes in the intensity of these storms. HS3 is focused on learning more about hurricane intensity. Being able to accurately predict the intensity of a storm when it makes landfall helps inform coastal communities about what kind of damage they can expect, enabling them to make decisions that can protect lives and property ahead of time.