Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – During this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, NASA is redoubling its efforts to probe the inner workings of hurricanes and tropical storms with two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft flying over storms and two new space-based missions.
NASA’s airborne Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3 mission, will revisit the Atlantic Ocean for the fourth year in a row. HS3 is a collaborative effort that brings together several NASA centers with federal and university partners to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin.The flights from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia take place between August 26th and September 29th, during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th.
The NASA Global Hawks are unmanned aircraft that will be piloted remotely from the HS3 mission control at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Global Hawk aircraft are well suited for hurricane investigations because they can fly for as long as 26 hours and fly above hurricanes at altitudes greater than 55,000 feet.
One Global Hawk will focus on the inner region of the storms to measure wind, precipitation, temperature and humidity. It will carry three instruments, including the High-Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) microwave sounder, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The second Global Hawk will carry three different instruments and examine the environment around the storms.
The NASA-Japanese Space Agency Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, launched February 27th, will provide rainfall measurements every three hours around the globe, and will complement the HS3 mission.
The ISS-RapidScat instrument, managed by JPL, is slated for launch to the International Space Station in August. RapidScat will measure ocean surface winds in Earth’s tropics and mid-latitudes and will provide useful data for weather forecasting of marine storms.
GPM and RapidScat are two of five NASA Earth science missions scheduled to be launched this year, the most new NASA Earth-observing mission launches in the same year in more than a decade. NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns.
NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.
For more information about this year’s HS3 campaign, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/1lUA6p4
For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities in 2014, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow