NASA Drones To Study Hurricanes
In an effort to better understand how hurricanes form and intensify, NASA will send unmanned drones to study the storms. Beginning over the summer and lasting over the next several years, these "severe storm sentinels" will fly above the hurricanes and give NASA a view of the storms they've never seen before.
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"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," Scott Braun, HS3 mission principal investigator and research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. "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."
The mission will use two Global Hawk aircraft, which NASA says is well suited to the task. The unmanned drones are autonomously flown and can fly over hurricanes for over 28 hours at 60,000 feet (18,000 kilometers), something a manned aircraft is incapable of doing.
"One aircraft will sample the environment of storms while the other will measure eyewall and rainband winds and precipitation," Braun said.
The drones will investigate the role the hot, dry, and dusty Saharan Air Layer in tropical storm formation and intensification.
"Past studies have suggested that the Saharan Air Layer can both favor or suppress intensification," NASA said in a statement. "In addition, HS3 will 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."
Hurricanes are very dangerous, so a better understand of the storms can improve preparedness.
"Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland," according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall."
The upcoming hurricane seasons will be "near-normal" according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The organization said to expect between nine and 15 named storms, up to three of which will become major hurricanes.
The mission will operate during the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on Friday and runs through November 30. The flights will occur between August and October.
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