Robot aircraft get major funding for hurricane work

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:36 AM GMT on January 25, 2008

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The 88th annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, the world's largest gathering of meteorologists, has drawn to a close here in New Orleans. The biggest news, from my biased view as a former Hurricane Hunter, was the announcement Tuesday of funding for a major project to fly remotely piloted aircraft into hurricanes. NOAA has approved a $3 million research program that will use these aircraft (also called Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs) for three purposes: to take measurements in the core of hurricanes, track how fast Arctic summer ice melts, and take observations of Pacific storms that represent a flood risk to the U.S. West Coast. One of the aircraft planned for the study, the aerosonde, successfully flew into what was the core of Hurricane Noel on November 2, 2007. The hurricane had just completed the transition to a powerful extratropical storm as it moved northward along the U.S. East Coast. The aerosonde spent 7.5 hours in the storm, recording winds as high as 80 mph at altitudes as low as 300 feet.

"A big chunk of the atmosphere remains relatively unobserved. I think unmanned aircraft are a key to that solution and they will become ubiquitous in the coming decade," said Marty Ralph, a research meteorologist at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, Colorado, in press release published by BBC News. In particular, the "atmospheric boundary layer"--the region close to the surface--is a very dangerous place to fly a crewed aircraft in, but is an essential part of the atmosphere to sample in order to learn more about how hurricanes intensify. Collecting data with UAVs offers real hope that we can finally make headway making better hurricane intensity forecasts.

Image: the aerosonde getting launched from a pickup truck. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

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36. NEwxguy
6:25 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Things are becoming more ominous late this weekend concerning the huge ocean storm.Southern New England's chances for a major storm are increasing with each model run.


.SYNOPSIS...
-- Changed Discussion --HIGH PRES BUILDS INTO NEW ENGLAND THROUGH SATURDAY WITH DRY SEASONABLY
COLD WEATHER. A MAJOR OCEAN STORM WILL BEGIN DEVELOPING SUNDAY S OF NEW
ENGLAND AND THREATENS TO BRING GALE FORCE WINDS...HIGH SEAS...BEACH
EROSION...SIGNIFICANT SNOW AND RAIN TO COASTAL EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS...
ESPECIALLY SUNDAY NIGHT INTO MONDAY NIGHT. THE HIGH PRES BLOCKING FACTOR
OVER SOUTHEAST CANADA MAY ULTIMATELY DECIDE WHETHER THIS IS GLANCING BLOW
OR A FULL FLEDGED STORM HERE WHICH WE WONT CONFIDENTLY AND RELIABLY KNOW
UNTIL LATER THIS WEEKEND.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15053
35. weatherboyfsu
5:01 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Good Morning,

More rain for Florida??????


AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
945 AM EST FRI JAN 25 2008

.DISCUSSION...VERY QUIET MORNING SO FAR WEATHERWISE WITH MOSTLY
CLEAR SKIES PREVAILING OVER THE AREA. WINDS SHOULD GRADUALLY
DIMINISH TODAY AS THE HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM TO THE NORTH OF THE STATE
CONTINUES TO MOVE EASTWARD AND INTO THE ATLANTIC. NEXT ITEM TO WATCH
IS THE POTENTIAL SHOWN ON LATEST MODEL DATA FOR ANOTHER SHORT WAVE
FEATURE TO FORM ALONG THE WESTERN EDGE OF A WARM FRONT OVER THE
EASTERN GULF ON SATURDAY. GFS IS NOW HINTING A POSSIBLE CLOSED LOW
OVER THE EASTERN GULF BY SATURDAY AFTERNOON. WITH CONFIDENCE IN THIS
SCENARIO SLOWLY INCREASING IN MODEL DATA WILL BEGIN INTRODUCING
20/30 POPS FOR SATURDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING WITH BETTER CHANCES OF
SOME SIGNIFICANT RAIN IN THE SATURDAY LATE EVENING AND SUNDAY
MORNING TIME PERIOD. THIS WILL ALSO BLEND BETTER WITH THE
SURROUNDING CWAS.
Member Since: July 17, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1025
34. cchsweatherman
4:58 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
I just took some time reading Dr. Master's update and I found it quite fascinating; the idea of using unmanned aircraft that can fly close to the surface. This is going to be a pivotal technological development in tracking hurricanes, since we will know that the data received will very closely resemble the actual conditions on the ground. I wonder if this UAV will be able to study tropical systems that make landfall. It would be awesome if we could get accurate data from storms on land. Great update Dr. Masters. Keep these updates coming.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5030
33. cchsweatherman
4:41 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
BREAKING NEWS: NHC Names New Director

Bill Read: New National Hurricane Center Director
MIAMI (CBS4) ― There's a new boss at the National Hurricane Center. NOAA officials have named veteran forecaster Bill Read as the new Director its Tropical Prediction Center, which includes the National Hurricane Center and two other divisions, in Miami.

A news conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

"Bill has what it takes be the nation's hurricane center director. He's spent 30 years of his career as a weather professional with NOAA dedicated to protecting lives from severe weather, much of it hurricanes and tropical storms," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Bill has been a trusted consultant to emergency managers in and around Houston and I'm sure he will foster that type of goodwill in communities vulnerable to hurricanes. He will find the job as rewarding as it is demanding."

Read, 58, has been the interim deputy director since last August when the National Weather Service transferred Bill Proenza out of the director's position. Proenza was only in the position for six months before being criticized by his bosses' and staff.

Read is a 30-year veteran of the National Weather Service.

Ed Rappaport, who's been the acting director of the NHC, chose not to apply for the permanent position after Max Mayfield retired last January after 7 years as director.

Rappaport, 50, will return to his previous post as deputy director.

Tropical storms and hurricanes have frequently played a major role in Read's professional life. Read and his team were at the forefront in July 2003 as Hurricane Claudette made landfall on the Texas coast. He also was part of the Hurricane Liaison Team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami when Hurricane Isabel came ashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and raced northeast in September 2003.

Read was appointed to direct the Houston/Galveston weather forecast office of NOAA's National Weather Service in 1992 and led it through the challenges of the National Weather Service modernization and restructuring program in the mid 1990s.

"Bill brings a wealth of experience in meteorology and management to this position. He has a clear understanding of the needs of staff, the emergency management community and the public in fulfilling our mission of saving lives and property," said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Bill has a proven track record of pulling people together – from the forecaster to the emergency manager – as severe weather threatens."

Prior to joining NOAA's National Weather Service, Read served in the U.S. Navy, where his duties included an assignment as an on-board meteorologist with the Hurricane Hunters. He began his career in 1977 with the National Weather Service test and evaluation division in Sterling, Va., developed his forecasting skills in Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas; and, served as severe thunderstorm and flash flood program leader at the National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.

NOAA's Tropical Prediction Center contains three divisions:

1.) The National Hurricane Center provides forecasts of the movement and strength of tropical weather systems and issues watches and warnings for the U.S. and surrounding areas.
2.) The Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch provides support for satellite and radar analyses.
3.) The Technical Support Branch provides support for the Center's computer and communications systems and develops new techniques for tropical cyclone and tropical weather analysis and prediction.

(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5030
32. cchsweatherman
4:21 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
That is true NE that not all the models are jumping on board yet, but the GFS does show a major widespread storm from this. WIll have to watch very closely.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5030
31. NEwxguy
4:11 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
morning Baja.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15053
30. NEwxguy
4:10 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
cchs,yeh,have been watching the models,its major especially for the coverage,from severe whether in the south to major snows in the upper midwest to icing and could be some major wind too.Not all the models have jumped on board yet.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15053
29. BajaALemt
3:53 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Thanks again, Doc. And....morning folks
28. cchsweatherman
3:51 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Besides the next potential NE storm, has anyone been paying attention to the models showing a major storm in the northern Great Lakes region this upcoming week? Looks to be even worse than the NE storm in my opinion.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5030
26. NEwxguy
3:26 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Good morning NE and all!
This next coastal/offshore system is gonna be something...extremely large wind field...45-50 kts close to the center, especially in the western semi circle.

Storm,It does look like its going to be major,whats your feeling on this backing up toward the coast a little.That could be a major impact on coastal erosion and since the wind field will be on the west side,it could have a major impact on us up here.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15053
24. cchsweatherman
3:11 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Just to let everyone know, I have finally created a National Weather page on my website. It has a detailed forecast discussion and forecast search tool, since I will not be able to update forecasts everyday for all major cities. Let me know what you think.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5030
23. vortfix
3:01 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
I've been following this project along over the years. This is going to be another great tool in the shed for the forecasters.
My question though is ......does anyone think that 3 million bucks sounds like a major or minor committment?
22. NEwxguy
2:58 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
GM all,a cold day here in New England but nothing we can't handle,starting to see a difference in time of sunset now.The major issue is will Phil the groundhog see his shadow next weekend???
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15053
21. vortfix
2:56 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
NOAA AND PARTNERS CONDUCT FIRST SUCCESSFUL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT HURRICANE OBSERVATION BY FLYING THROUGH OPHELIA
Sept. 16, 2005 ? Hurricane researchers at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Fla., marked a new milestone in hurricane observation as the first unmanned aircraft touched down after a 10-hour mission into Tropical Storm Ophelia, which lost its hurricane strength Thursday night. The aircraft, known as an Aerosonde, provided the first-ever detailed observations of the near-surface, high wind hurricane environment, an area often too dangerous for NOAA and U.S. Air Force Reserve manned aircraft to observe directly.
20. Beachfoxx
2:45 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Hi all!

UAV's... great idea. I have seen some experimental model and they were amazing. Often used in military.

Have a great day everyone.... gotta run!

Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29378
18. cchsweatherman
2:03 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Good morning all!

Been quite some time since I last posted anything on the blogs, so I decided to drop by and see how everyone is doing.

It feels much nicer here in Cooper City after a few consecutive days with strong late afternoon storms that flooded some roads here. Got nearly 4 inches during the past four days, but too bad this has not reached Lake Okeechobee. It needs the rain more than we do here in South Florida.

Anyways, I'll be around from time to time throughout the day since I'm off from classes today.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5030
17. mobal
1:40 PM GMT on January 25, 2008
Interesting, thanks for the information.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 481 Comments: 5327
16. ShenValleyFlyFish
11:51 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
Thanks Dr Masters
Little guys sound like a Good Thing. Take away some of the romance of hurricane hunting but any lives saved will be well worth it.
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
15. Cavin Rawlins
11:19 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
Tropical Depression 08R Update 2
Southwest Indian Ocean

Issued 1100 UTC 25 JAN 2008 by W456

As of 1000 UTC, the center of 08R was located near 14.0S-44.3E moving south-southeast. Estimated surface winds are near 30 knots and minimum central pressure is 1004 mb. Wind shear is 5-10 knots over the center and SSTs are 30C at a dept of 65 m.

Center fix was based on 1 km visible imagery which showed a well define LLCC within a region of warm cloud overcast. Surface winds and pressure were estimated using a combination of multiplatform satellite winds and Dvorak satellite analysis. The cyclone has grown in size and intensity in the past 6-12 hours and that can be attributed to a cross-equatorial outflow channel to its north. The curve bands have become define and beginning to wrap around the cloud system center (CSC) which is an indicator of development. Furthermore, the very weak warm-core on January 23 2008 has become warmer and more extensive. Conditions should remain favorable in the next 48 hrs or so but beyond that it is uncertain. Global models take the system southwestward through the Mozambique Channel with little strengthening and then turn southeastward into Southern Madagascar under the influence of westerlies.

by W456

JTWC Stats:
0600 UTC 97S INVEST.25kts-1004mb-139S-447E

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
14. tmangray
6:41 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
At 7:15 this evening Pacific Time, a tornado was sighted by an air traffic controller at Point Mugu in southern California. From the severe weather report on the LA NWS site: "FEDERAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER AT POINT MUGU NAS TOWER OBSERVED A TORNADO MOVING OVER THE AIRFIELD ABOUT ONE QUARTER MILE FROM THE TOWER. TORNADO WAS BACKLIT WITH NEAR HORIZONAL VORTEX. ROOF OF NEARBY BUILDING BLOWN OFF. TORNADO WAS APPARENTLY A WATERSPOUT WHICH MOVED ASHORE."
13. auburn (Mod)
4:38 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
Thats too Cool!!!
Member Since: August 27, 2006 Posts: 546 Comments: 50206
12. tillou
4:36 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
Its amazing that these little planes can actually make it through the winds of a hurricane. Im all for them.
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 198
11. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
3:36 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
we are all here to learn
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52120
10. latitude25
3:11 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
woops
I didn't mean that the way you might have read it.
I wasn't firing a shot at you at all.

I don't fire shots at all, not ever. sorry
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
8. latitude25
3:02 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
just my normal self I guess

What are you so up tight about?
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
6. ycd0108
2:44 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
Good idea!
Especially if the little planes eventually help monitor the north east pacific.
Seems to me that most weather (especially what I experience, also what weather tracks across the continent) starts there.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 170 Comments: 4391
5. HIEXPRESS
2:43 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
UAVs will save a lot of fuel too.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2155
3. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:09 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
it will be the one way to ensure no loss of flight crews as these things are expenable and maybe easily replaced with the capabily of multipy craft in one storm giving much more information and storm dynamics mapping thanks doc for update
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52120
2. latitude25
1:54 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
"the announcement Tuesday of funding for a major project to fly remotely piloted aircraft into hurricanes. NOAA has approved a $3 million research program"

$3 million to fly high tech model airplanes

I don't want to hear any more whining about this administration not funding anything.

sounds like a heck of a lot of fun.

.
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
1. KoritheMan
1:14 AM GMT on January 25, 2008
Nice. These UAVs sound like a great idea.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 521 Comments: 19109

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.