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NASA Makes A Heated 3-D Look Into Hurricane Erin's Eye

Date:
October 11, 2005
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
Hurricane Erin raced across the North Atlantic and along the eastern seaboard in September 2001. She was used as an experiment for a study to improve hurricane tracking and intensity predictions, allowing meteorologists to provide more accurate and timely warnings to the public. Studies show that temperatures measured at an extremely high altitude collected from a hurricane's center or eye can provide improved understanding of how hurricanes change intensity.

This 3D rendition of hurricane Erin shows elements of the hurricane engine inside the clouds (white): Rainfall (green), as revealed by TRMM, and warmth of the upper level eye (red), as revealed by the dropsondes released from the NASA ER-2 aircraft.
Credit: NASA

HurricaneErin was analyzed during the fourth Convection And Moisture EXperiment(CAMEX-4), which took place from August 16 through September 24, 2001.The mission originated from the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla.The mission united researchers from 10 universities, five NASA centersand the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CAMEX-4 is aseries of field research investigations to study tropical cyclones —storms commonly known as hurricanes.

Twenty instrumentedpackages, called dropsondes, were dropped into Erin's eye by two NASAresearch aircraft (the ER-2 and DC-8). The special packages includedinstruments that mapped temperature patterns.

For the first time,researchers were able to reconstruct the structure of the eye in threedimensions from as high as 70,000 feet, down to the ocean surface, ingreat detail. The dropsondes showed Erin's warm core decreasing whileit was rapidly weakening, making the storm more vulnerable to windshear, a change in horizontal winds, which led to the storm fallingapart.

Hurricane Erin's rainfall pattern adjusted quickly tosurprisingly small changes in wind speed patterns in the surroundingatmosphere. Weak horizontal winds rearrange rain and wind structure,which create uneven weather conditions around the hurricane's core.

Observationsfrom the study show the relationship between warm air from the eye ofthe storm is linked to reduction in sea surface pressure, which is thebasic process that drives the hurricane's destructive winds.

Althoughlittle is known about the birth of a hurricane and what causes it tostrengthen or weaken, scientists have made substantial steps towardimproving predictions of where a hurricane will move or make landfall.The ability to forecast intensity change, however, has always been achallenge for meteorologists.

The research done on Hurricane Erinwas important because it could help forecasters understand factors thatcontrol rain intensity and distribution for hurricanes landing alongthe Eastern Seaboard.

Freshwater flooding is the number onekiller from hurricanes in the Western Hemisphere and the study of ahurricane's rainfall pattern could better prepare us for the next bigstorm.

This research paper, titled "Warm Core Structure ofHurricane Erin Diagnosed from High Altitude Dropsondes During CAMEX-4"by J. Halverson et al., is going to be published in an upcoming issueof the American Meteorological Society's Journal of AtmosphericScience, CAMEX Special Issue, at the end of 2005.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "NASA Makes A Heated 3-D Look Into Hurricane Erin's Eye." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051007090048.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2005, October 11). NASA Makes A Heated 3-D Look Into Hurricane Erin's Eye. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051007090048.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "NASA Makes A Heated 3-D Look Into Hurricane Erin's Eye." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051007090048.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

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