Chasing the Storm

The official "Hurricane Hunters" are the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron consists of ten WC-130 Hercules aircraft which are regularly flown through the eyes of hurricanes. The information the Hurricane Hunters provide to the National Hurricane Center helps the 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 where the center of the hurricane is (which can only be done roughly from a satelite) and also whether the hurricane is strengthening or weakening. 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 conducts research using two WP-3D Orions and a new Gulfstream IV-SP. These aircraft mainly focus on hurricane research though some of the wind data from the Gulfstream is used to improve track forecasts.

Last modified April 29, 2016 by Jennifer Bergman.

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