A new airplane for the hurricane hunters

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:45 PM GMT on May 01, 2006

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If you have a copy of Google Earth, try zooming in to take a look at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona. Included amongst the thousands of retired airplanes in the desert is one lucky 4-engine turboprop P-3 Orion, used by the Navy for anti-submarine warfare. This sword will soon be beaten into a plowshare, for it will serve as NOAA's next weather research aircraft. Stung by criticism that neither of our top hurricane hunter aircraft--the two P-3 Orions operated by NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center (AOC)--were available to fly during 2004's Hurricane Charley, since they were off flying other weather research projects, the government has allocated $11 million to buy a new P-3 for weather research. According to Dr. Jim McFadden, head of science programs for the AOC, the new P-3 will not be used for hurricane work, but instead will be outfitted to do other weather reasearch, such as air pollution projects. This will free up the two current P-3s for the entire hurricane season, so they can concentrate exclusively on hurricane work. No funding has yet been procured to finance the additional staff required by NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center to operate the new P-3, but this funding has been promised by NOAA.

Figure 1. The NOAA P-3 Orion hurricane hunter aircraft. Image credit: NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center.

The new P-3 is scheduled to come on-line in 2008 or 2009, but we could sure use it this hurricane season! Only one P-3 is scheduled to be available for hurricane work. The other P-3 is currently in Standard Depot Level Maintainence (SDLM), a 5-month process the airplanes undergo every seven years, where they are basically gutted down to the frame and rebuilt. As part of this year's SDLM, the P-3 will also be undergoing a Special Structural Inspection (SSI), where every rivet is X-rayed and the entire frame closely inspected for stress cracks caused by the severe turbulence the aircraft flies through. When the P-3 completes SDLM, it will undergo a month-long process to outfit it with special instrumentation to perform air pollution research. The P-3 is scheduled to be ready by August to fly again, and it is slated to spend the peak months of hurricane season--August and September--in Houston for an air pollution field program. Should the other P-3 suffer some crippling mechanical problem that would put it out of hurricane flying action for an extended period, the P-3 in Houston will be summoned to fly hurricanes. This can only happen after a 3-day effort to take all the sentitive air pollution instrumentation off of the airplane, as these instruments cannot survive high turbulence.

Since only one P-3 will be available for the 2006 hurricane season, we'll have only one Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) instrument flying. The SFMR is an airborne remote sensing device that can infer surface wind speeds in a hurricane by looking at the brightness of the sea surface. The SFMR measurements were used heavily by NHC in 2005 to determine how much of the coast needed hurricane and tropical storm warnings. The U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron C-130 hurricane hunter aircraft are scheduled to receive the SFMR instruments, but this will not happen in time for the 2006 hurricane season, according to Dr. McFadden.

What's interesting about the new P-3 purchase is that no big press release about it was made--at least that I can find. It is strange that an administration concerned about its image after the Katrina disaster wouldn't emphasize its commitment spend more money to help out hurricane reconnaissance. In addition to the new P-3, the administration has also proposed in its 2006 budget to spend $1.4 million to improve hurricane data buoys and operations in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Oceans. Unfortunately, little new money has been approved or promised to fund more hurricane research. While I give the Bush Administration credit for these much-needed expenditures, I believe that the money proposed to fix the ailing buoys might have been better spent funding NOAA's Hurricane Research Division to do more research to improve our poor hurricane intensity forecasts.

Jeff Masters

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488. rxse7en
10:12 PM GMT on May 02, 2006

Thanks for the link to your site. Pretty helpful having all of those resources in one site--as opposed to all of my bookmarks.

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487. StormJunkie
10:11 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Yall should check these Texas storms.

National Radar Loop

It is a big loop-caution dial up and old pc users.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
486. StormJunkie
10:10 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Sorry, got to get back in to the blog etique.

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485. StormJunkie
10:09 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
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484. StormJunkie
10:06 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Ya'll stop by. Pretty basic and I am having issues with my Virtual Weather Station software. Just hope to have some useful links on there.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
483. StormJunkie
9:59 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Let's not forget Tanner breaking out the broom in the other B-Ball. 3-0 sweep.

You snuck through one game in six since The Ol Ball Coach arrived, and that was only cause of four games in four days. That is a lot of Basketball.

Anywho I am going to add a few links to the site. I ya'll have any please post em so I can grab em.


Seriously Gatorboy the only difference I would have liked to have seen in the real tourny was ya'll against LSU. Would have rooted for ya either way. Ya'll did the SEC proud. About time the ACC got exposed for being over-rated.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
482. Gatorboy
9:54 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
I dont belive in that, you just wait when the gamecocks get whooped right in THE SWAMP!
481. weatherguy03
5:51 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
"Fear the Cock"..LOL..Yeah right!! Oh man that too funny!! See, isnt debate wonderful!!
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 590 Comments: 29698
480. StormJunkie
9:50 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
You know about the Spurrier curse Gatorboy. It is the talk of Gatortown.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
479. StormJunkie
9:46 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
The answer to the previous question was...

2 and 1.

Fear the Cock.
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478. Gatorboy
9:46 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Well, we might of lost to yall twice, but the third time was the charm, and we stole your ticket to the dance.
And when the gamecocks come to gainesville, chirs leak will be droppin bombs in the endzones like the U.S. Air Force.
477. StormJunkie
9:43 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
How many teams have one the NIT two years in a row?

How many teams beat Florida twice this year in B-Ball and once in football?

Fear the Cock.

I try to forget that the NIT is a fake tourny. Maybe next year I won't have to.

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476. Gatorboy
9:44 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
All hail billy donovan, THE NATIONAL CHAMPION!
475. atmosweather
5:44 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
LOL Bob, didn't know FSU were good enough for that tourney LOL :)
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474. weatherguy03
5:44 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
I agree, no censorship here. Plus the admin. would never allow it! Its all good. Debate is healthy!
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473. atmosweather
5:42 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
Yeah it would not be the same without heated (but not argumentative and offensive) discussions.
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472. StormJunkie
9:42 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
It is only endless blabber when the debate is not going the way you want it. Figure out how to turn it around.
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471. weatherguy03
5:41 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
GO GATORS!!! What did you win SJ? You mean the NIT is a real tourney??..Ha Ha!!
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470. StormJunkie
9:39 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
I hope you are right atmos. It is colorful (no offense Lefty...lmao) in here, but that is the only way I want it.
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469. ForecasterColby
9:37 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Junkie, debate is a good thing, endless blabber is not.
468. atmosweather
5:37 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
I think he is joking, SJ, they wouldn't do that. He is trying to get at Tony for making long posts.
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467. StormJunkie
9:35 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
If admin limits this blog I may not renew my membership. It is the only way to get true debate.
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466. StormJunkie
9:32 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Gator, you know ya'll were real real lucky in the SEC Bball tourny. If it had not been for four games in four day we would have one. Was glad to see ya'll win the tourny though Just wish we could have been there instead of Madison Square. Hey at least we won there. All Hail Dave Odom the NIT King
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465. atmosweather
5:34 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
May 24th
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464. Gatorboy
9:26 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
can somebody guess when the first TD will devlop
Gatorboy's new rhyme
May to november
The embers of college football ingite
The might florida gators will get you day or night
South Carolina, LSU, georgia, and tenn will be in dismay...
and hurricane season sucks!
463. Barefootontherocks
9:02 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
I hear that the admin is gonna limit # words per day per blogger on this blog.

franck, YW.
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462. atmosweather
5:03 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
Thanks, Tony, have a good sleep :)
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
461. hurricanechaser
8:32 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey Rich, snowboy and everyone else,

I thought I would clarify why I think Stormtop and I may have simply misunderstood one another about the Bermuda High discussion which may explain our difference of opinions which is only fair to him.:)

First, I wanted to review my definitions that I had learned about it in school from the AMS glossary which I found online fortunately.

Here is the official definition of the Bermuda High.:)

Bermuda high—The semipermanent subtropical high of the North Atlantic Ocean, so named especially when it is located in the western part of the ocean.

This same high, when displaced toward the eastern part of the Atlantic, is known as the Azores high.

On mean charts of sea level pressure, this high is a principal center of action. Warm and humid conditions prevail over the eastern United States, particularly in summer, when the Bermuda high is well developed and extends westward.

Although this shows I am 100% correct on my contention, there is an important caveat that I believe StormTop focused on and led to our disagreement when he accused me of not knowing what it is and how it affects hurricanes despite the fact that I wrote my latest couple of blogs on this exact subject.

Back to the point, there are infrequent cases where this High can create a separate cell so to speak of this same High pressure area and that may be what Stormtop is referring to, and if so, it would not totally discredit his belief that the Bermuda and Azores Highs are not the same, which they really are as noted above.

In short, I simply wanted to be fair to Stormtop by explaining about how it can (not often) break off another cell from this same High near the Azores.

I sincerely hope that this may explain the disagreement over the all important Bermuda High pressure system.:)

Once again, I have no hard feeling towards stormtop and if I did, I certainly wouldn't be objectively posting these comments.

I hope each of you have a great night for I still haven't gotten to bed (lol) and just saw that I missed saying thanks to Atmos (Rich) and I you are doing great yourself and your brother as well, Rich.:)

Also, thanks snowboy, who is another extremely knowledgeable person on here, and the list goes on and we all hopefully can get along and truly learn from one another for I personally believe that own very own unique experiences give all of us interesting insight that the other may not have had the opportunity to experience yet, and I look forward to reading more of the countless fascinating and informative posts by all on here myself.:)

Your friend,

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460. snowboy
8:40 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
gatorboy, I hate to be picky but yours doesn't rhyme...
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459. atmosweather
4:31 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
LOL Gatorboy,

Hey SJ :)
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458. StormJunkie
8:24 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey Gatorboy...Thanks for the Spurrier!!! Can't wait to see ya again this year.

Good to see you again.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
457. Gatorboy
7:57 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
never knew that rhyme, this is mine
May to november
I hate this season.
456. newt3d
7:13 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
It's nice to see the family back together again. Todays comments on the blog remind me of when my 3 brothers and I get together for family reunions. Sure there's a lot of insults, bickering, fighting, competing, but it's all in the name of fun ... at least when I win.

All we need now is a storm to distract us from name-calling and bickering ...
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455. 147257
03:56 PM BOT op 02 Mei, 2006
the heat potential is a big difference with last year
Member Since: August 2, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 68
454. snowboy
7:50 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
gatorboy, the old rhyme for hurricanes is:
"May to November, the worst is September"
- we could see something this month.
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453. Gatorboy
7:32 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
unfortnely 29 more days till cane season. I cant belive it, it just seemed like it ended not too long ago:(
452. weatherboyfsu
7:31 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
I have a new job......also a new redneck truck so its possible but gas is killing me.....timing and how well things are going here at work will determine my freedom to get away.......
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451. snowboy
7:20 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
hey bekroweather, good link, thanks!
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449. bekroweather
7:17 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Actually what is more interesting than SSTs is the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP):


Compare the TCHP of the Atlantic Ocean on 30 April 2006:


with the TCHP last year:

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448. snowboy
7:15 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
hey Shera, what about giving it a rest yourself - or maybe doing something novel and sharing with us some weather-related insights?

By the way outrocket, thanks for that expanation of the oft-seen eastward jogs of landfalling hurricanes along the north Gulf Coast. Hadn't heard that before and it certainly makes sense intuitively. I guess what it really amounts to is a jog to the right..

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446. bekroweather
7:11 PM GMT on May 02, 2006

Another webpage with interesting SST links is by Johns Hopkins (static *.png images):

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445. hurricanechaser
7:12 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey Shera,

I was posting the previus comment as you were posting yours.:)

Goodnight Shera.:)
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444. hurricanechaser
7:08 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey everyone,

I gotta get at least a short nap before my wife gets home with our two children (one almost a 4 week old and why I need the sleep)and she gets on me for being on here too much again.:)

I can't hardly type a complete sentence without a typo so I am calling it a day/night (lol).

I hope you all have a great night as well.:)


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443. Sheraqueenofthebeach
3:09 PM EDT on May 02, 2006
Tony - GO TO BED. Give it a rest.

Member Since: August 2, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 3140
442. hurricanechaser
7:05 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey outrocket,

I want to say that you just proved my esrlier point about those like you that I mentioned who don't have to have a degree or have ever worked in the field to know your stuff.:)

In short, an excellent explanation to TampaSteve in my humble opinion.

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441. hurricanechaser
6:50 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey ejs,

I am sorry and I can apprciate your sentiments for sure.:)

I would honestly rather not experience a mjor storm than have someone lose their life or home naturally which is why I am so conflicted about what I do (free-lance storm videography for Fox News) when they come ashore.

That's why I will never defend myself when making such honest but naturally unpopular and foolish things which is a view I can agree with about such thoughts.

I guess its similar to those things that we want to do that we know deep down that it's wrong. Eventually, we finally rationalize it so that we feel it's ok to go ahead and do it anyway.

Unfortunately, we then feel so guilty afterwards. This is how I feel when I see the devastation left behind.

I rationalize it that i am putting my life at risk to show how bad tese storms are so peole will evacuate. That is honestly a huge part of it but there is that other part that is selfish (i.e. wants to capture the best footage on film and experience the historical event).

I want to believe that the unselfish reason is most important and most times it is, but I would be dishonest to say the other isn't a part of it as well.

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440. outrocket
1:44 PM CDT on May 02, 2006
TampaSteve wrote: "I did notice an interesting phenomenon with landfalling hurricanes in the northern Gulf of Mexico. As the eye nears landfall, the storm takes a little jog to the East.

In all what happens is as the eye nears shoar the eye wall interacts with land and the part of the eyewall nearing thshoar or on it is slowed by the friction with land(obsticles)..this allows the part of the eyewall over the water to be rotating faster around the eye causing a "hooking effect"which tends to make the east side outrun the west side of the eye wall on land falling hurricanes..that hook would reflect in a eastward looking jog you will see this often...as for Dennis's east wiggle last year that was caused by shear off the yucatan pennisula:)...hope that helps
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439. hurricanechaser
6:39 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
Hey 147257,

Honestly, my text books are just a little older and in storage.

However, I do know two meteorologist friends that don't live here (so I haven't seen it myself) who highly recommend it and one is using it in school right now down in Georgia while the other says that he browsed through it, but he didn't use it in college himself.:)

To me, it looks like a good book and one I recommend based on their recommendations that I trust.:)

I wish I could give you first hand knowledge of it but I have personally never read it and simply learned about it through the one friend who is using it at his college in Georgia.

I will say that I would buy it if I wanted another text book myself (lol).:)

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438. StormJunkie
6:40 PM GMT on May 02, 2006
bekro, your sst link did not seem to work for me? any help?
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.