Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The DAWN of improved hurricane forecasting

NASA: As a hurricane bears down on your town, wouldn't it be nice to have a better idea of just where it was going to land and how intense it would be? Knowing that could impact a potentially life-and-death decision, whether to leave or ride it out. An instrument that recently flew on a NASA airborne science mission has the potential for helping with that choice. The Doppler Aerosol Wind (DAWN) lidar compiles three-dimensional wind profiles – the first instrument of its kind to do so – that will improve hurricane forecasting models.

Data from the laser instrument will be added to the prediction models of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provides weather forecasting services for the U.S., said Michael Kavaya, principal investigator for DAWN at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "This will help us better predict the track that a hurricane follows, the intensity of the hurricane, and whether a weather system developing out in the Atlantic off Africa becomes a hurricane," said Kavaya.

DAWN flew last year on a NASA DC-8 research aircraft as part of the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Process (GRIP) mission. The mission was designed to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes. During the mission, NASA research aircraft observed hurricanes Karl and Earl and Tropical Storm Matthew in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in September 2010. The mission included six NASA centers, three NASA satellites, three aircraft, 14 instruments and many scientists and engineers.

..."This demonstration is a very important step on the way to satellite-borne measurements of 3-D winds," Kakar said. "Space-borne measurement of 3-D winds is a very important input for improving weather and severe-weather prediction models."...

NASA image of Hurricane Karl on September 16, 2010

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