NOAA 99-R515
Contact: Erica Van Coverden


Starting today, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, will climb aboard NOAA's two WP-3D Orion airplanes and begin a season of experiments aimed at improving hurricane track and intensity forecasting.

The first experiment will use new ocean measurement probes to study a large eddy of warm water now located in the Gulf of Mexico and the role these warm water energy pockets play in the rapid intensification of hurricanes. These results will be contrasted with the role of large-scale weather systems, such as wind shear, in hurricane intensification. Scientists believe that deep, warm-water eddies have caused Gulf hurricanes such as Camille in 1969, and Opal in 1995, to become more intense just hours before landfall.

The second test will measure winds around the hurricanes and incorporate the measurements in computer forecasting models. The 1999 experiments build upon 17 previous years' results, which showed that forecast accuracy increased by as much as 31 percent when compared to models run without the observations. By targeting specific points around the storm that provide the most crucial data for accurate forecasting, this project aims to further increase forecast accuracy.

The third major experiment is designed to increase accuracy of analyzed surface winds at hurricane landfall. The same information is used to define the extent of evacuation zones along the shoreline. Data is collected from instruments dropped from the planes, airborne and land based Doppler radars, satellites, and buoys.

Since 1956 NOAA scientists and NOAA CORPS researchers and aviators have made arduous research flights directly through the centers of Atlantic hurricanes in winds sometimes as high as 180 mph. The goals of these airborne experiments are more accurate hurricane predictions and more timely warnings. NOAA's Hurricane Center, Climate Prediction Center, and Hurricane Research Division expect the 1999 hurricane season to be above average during its peak from August1 - October 31.

NOAA's mission is to describe and predict changes in the Earth's environment, and conserve and wisely manage the Nation's coastal and marine resources.

The 1999 Hurricane Program Field Plan can be found on the World Wide Web at: