Max Mayfield: NASA Global Hawk investigates Tropical Storm Nadine

NASA flies unmanned Global Hawk as part of Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel missions

By Max Mayfield - Hurricane Specialist
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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Tropical Storm Nadine will not likely be remembered for the impacts it leaves on land areas. However, it may well be remembered for the insights uncovered on intensity forecasting thanks to some research flights into the storm. 

Tuesday, NASA flew an unmanned Global Hawk into the tropical cyclone on a 26-hour research flight that is part of NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission. Live hurricane tracker

HS3 is a five-year mission targeted to enhance our understanding of the processes involved with hurricane intensity change. Two Global Hawks are instrumented in a manner to help resolve the relative roles of the large-scale environment around the cyclone versus the internal storm processes taking place in the inner core. The unmanned vehicles are deployed from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and can fly as high as 65,000 feet up to 30 hours at speeds up to 345 knots.

It is certainly appealing to have a tropical cyclone monitored continuously for several hours. It is not yet known whether these unmanned aircraft can economically duplicate or enhance the data currently collected by the manned NOAA P-3 and G-IV airplanes. Only time will tell. But if these research experiments are not conducted, we will never know.

The current plan calls for additional flights into Nadine over the next couple of days.

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