NASA's airborne Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission, will revisit the Atlantic Ocean for the third 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 Aug. 26 and Sept. 29 during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
"This year we're going full-force into tropical cyclone research," said Scott Braun, HS3 mission principal investigator and research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "We'll have two Global Hawks equipped with six instruments. The new NASA-JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory will be providing much higher quality data than previously available on rain structure in tropical cyclones in all ocean basins. The surface-wind monitoring ISS-RapidScat instrument to be launched to the International Space Station t
his season will provide valuable information on surface winds in storms."
One of the remaining mysteries that HS3 is attempting to solve is the effect of the hot, dry and dusty Saharan Air Layer (SAL) in tropical storm formation and intensification. Some research points to SAL contributing to storm formation, while other research indicates SAL suppresses it. HS3 also will investigate the role of strong thunderstorms near the core of the storms as a possible driver of intensity change.
This year NOAA, in addition to managing all of the dropsondes during the HS3 mission, will enable the mission to fly another week to better study tropical cyclones. A dropsonde is a device that measures winds, temperature and humidity, dropped from an aircraft.
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...