News / Science & Technology

NASA Readies Hurricane Investigation Mission

NASA Readies Hurricane Investigation Missioni
X
August 13, 2013 12:21 AM
Now that we're heading into peak hurricane season, the U.S. space agency, NASA, is planning to investigate the storms that churn over the Atlantic. VOA's Suzanne Presto spoke to a research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington to learn more about the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission.
Suzanne Presto
The U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says this Atlantic hurricane season will likely be even more active than usual.  And, as we head into peak hurricane season, the U.S. space agency, NASA, is planning to investigate the tropical storms and hurricanes that churn over the Atlantic Ocean.  

Two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft will take to skies above the Atlantic storms and collect measurements so scientists can see how hurricanes evolve.  It's the second year of NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, field campaign, says Scott Braun, a research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington.  
 
"What we're really after, scientifically, is to better understand the relative roles of the environment and those inner-core processes in the formation and intensification of hurricanes in the Atlantic," said Braun, the HS3 principal investigator.

High-Flying Hawks

Global Hawks can reach an altitude of almost 20 kilometers, roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner.  On-board instruments, such as the High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Profiler, allow scientists to gather details about storms from high above them.   

The Global Hawks will monitor the environment near the storms to see how surrounding conditions affect their intensity and also collect data about the storms themselves.  One craft will deploy dropsondes, instruments that measure temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and wind direction.  The dropsondes have parachutes that slow their descent, and Braun says it takes about 20 minutes for them to travel from above the storm down to the surface.  

Robotic Craft

The robotic planes in this mission launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on the eastern U.S. coast, and they can fly as far as 20,000 kilometers.   

That's just one of the benefits of using this kind of craft, says Braun.

"With the Global Hawk, we can fly for up to about 28 hours, and because all the crew and the scientists are on the ground rather than on the plane, we can swap out shifts," he said.  "That just means that you can go much farther or stay out over a storm much longer than you can with a manned aircraft."  

Researchers will analyze the data in depth after the field campaign, but Braun says they also plan to do a quick analysis and share some of the information they collect while the Global Hawks are flying over the storms.  

Saharan Dust

The HS3 mission also looks into something else that perplexes researchers.

"In addition to wind speed and wind direction, we're also interested in temperature in the environment, particularly in association with something called the Saharan Air Layer," Braun said.  "It's a very hot, dry, dusty air mass that comes off Africa."
      
Last year, the Global Hawks gathered some data about the dust layer that accompanied Tropical Storm Nadine.  Scientists debate whether Saharan dust fuels or suppresses the development of tropical storms.     

This year's HS3 flights run from August 20 to September 23.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' at 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid