First Alert Weather Academy: Hurricane Hunters

First Alert Weather Academy: Hurricane Hunters

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - With peak hurricane season around the corner, the NOAA Hurricane hunters along with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters will have a heavier work load soon!

The WP-3D Orion (top) flies at a lower altitude into the eye of storms. The Gulfstream IV-SP flies at 45,000 feet above tropical systems.
The WP-3D Orion (top) flies at a lower altitude into the eye of storms. The Gulfstream IV-SP flies at 45,000 feet above tropical systems. (Source: NOAA)

But have you ever wondered why scientists fly into hurricanes in the first place?

Every day all of the National Weather Service offices launch weather balloons with an instrument called a radiosonde into the atmosphere. This device data such as temperatures, wind speed, direction and pressure that then gets ingested into global computer weather models.

Weather balloons are launched twice a day from every NWS office, but they can also be released in the field when needed!
Weather balloons are launched twice a day from every NWS office, but they can also be released in the field when needed! (Source: NWS)

Since these launch points are over land and don't collect much data on tropical systems, the hurricane hunters bring the technology to the storm

Similar to radiosondes, hurricane hunters release use a device called a dropsonde into and in front of tropical systems.

Dropsondes fall from as far as 45,000 feet collecting weather data all the way to the ocean floor.
Dropsondes fall from as far as 45,000 feet collecting weather data all the way to the ocean floor. (Source: NASA)

These planes are designed to collect data across different points of a storm.

Some fly as low as 1,000 feet and into the eye to determine where the center is, how low the pressure is and record the max wind speed.

This WC-130J Super Hercules flies as low as 1,000 feet above the ocean to collect tropical data.
This WC-130J Super Hercules flies as low as 1,000 feet above the ocean to collect tropical data. (Source: Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)

NOAA's Gulf stream aircraft flies 45,000 feet above tropical systems, using dropsondes to create a detailed picture of conditions in the upper atmosphere.

All of this data is relayed to the National Hurricane Center and used in the latest weather model runs to improve the forecast in real time.

So the next time you hear us talk about the "cone of uncertainty" you'll know how the data for that storm's track was collected!

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