Lockheed WP- 3D Orions (P- 3s) and Gulfstream IV SP (G- IV) Jet
Specially equipped NOAA aircraft
play an integral role in hurricane forecasting. Data collected
during hurricanes by these high-flying meteorological stations
and from a variety of other sources are fed into
NOAA's newest aircraft acquisition is a Gulfstream IV SP (Special Performance) jet, which began hurricane surveillance missions in 1997 in support of forecasters at NOAA's National Hurricane Center. The jet, which can fly high, fast and far with a range of 4,000 nautical miles and a cruising altitude of 45,000 ft., paints a detailed picture of weather systems in the upper atmosphere surrounding developing hurricanes. This operational data is used in computer models that help forecasters make current predictions.
The G-IV's data also supplements the critical low-altitude research data that is collected by NOAA's two WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft. The P-3's mission is to provide data for NOAA's Hurricane Research Division as it continues to improve its hurricane prediction computer models.
P-3 AircraftInto the
Scientists aboard the aircraft deploy instruments called GPS (Global Positioning System) dropwindsondes as the P-3 flies through the hurricane. These devices continuously radio back measurements of pressure, humidity, temperature, and wind direction and speed as they fall toward the sea, providing a detailed look at the structure of the storm and its intensity.
For years NOAA pilots have flown P-3s into hurricanes at low altitudes (1,500-10,000 ft.) to collect research-mission data critical for computer models that predict hurricane intensity and landfall. This information is used differently than the hurricane reconnaissance information provided to the National Hurricane Center by U.S. Air Force Reserves WC-130s. Information from both types of flights, however, directly contributes to the safety of Americans living along the vulnerable Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
In addition to flying hurricane research and reconnaissance missions, NOAA's P-3s participate in a wide variety of national and international meteorological and oceanographic research programs each year. Recently, these aircraft have been used in major studies on storms approaching the continents of Europe and North America to improve forecasts and study the effects of El Niño; atmospheric gases and aerosols over the North Atlantic; large-scale convective storm complexes in the Midwest, and winter storms battering U.S. Pacific coastal states.
G-IV JetSeeking the
Data from GPS dropwindsondes that measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind information are relayed to the aircraft for transmission by satellite to the National Hurricane Center in Miami and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md. There the data are available for many numerical forecast models, providing important information about regionsmostly over oceansin which there are no other sources of weather data.
G-IV flight data are expected
to help numerical guidance computer models improve hurricane
landfall and track forecasts by up to 20 percent, and to further
refine storm intensity forecasts.
The G-IV and P-3sWorking
NOAA's Aircraft Operations
Much of the scientific instrumentation flown aboard NOAA aircraft is designed, built, assembled, and calibrated by AOC's Science and Engineering Division. During non-hurricane season months, the P-3s and G-IV are tailored by AOC engineers for use in other severe weather and atmospheric research programs, and flown by NOAA Corps pilots worldwide in a variety of weather conditions.
Updated March 2003