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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
Patch for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the US Air Force.
U.S. Air Force

Chasing the Storm

The official "Hurricane Hunters" are the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. They fly through the eyes of hurricanes and record information. The information helps the National Hurricane Center meteorologists improve the forecasts by up to 30%. How does this happen?

For each mission, the Hurricane Hunters fly through the eye of a hurricane multiple times. They pin-point the center of the hurricane and whether the hurricane is strengthening or weakening. Also, instruments on the plane continually record the wind speed and direction. This information helps when forecasting the hurricane's track. The more accuate the forecast is, the less coastline will need to be evacuated. It costs about $1 million per mile to evacuate, so the information provided by the Hurricane Hunters is very valuable.

Another group which routinely flies into hurricanes is the Hurricane Research Division (HRD) of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meterological Laboratory (AOML), which itself is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). **whew** The HRD aircraft mainly focus on hurricane research, though some of the wind data collected is used to improve track forecasts.

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The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store.

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