RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The first flight of the Hurricane and Storm Sentinel Mission (called "HS3" for short) began Tuesday, August 20, 2013, and continued into Wednesday, August 21.
CLICK HERE to track flights real-time from Virginia over the next month.
How do hurricanes form and intensity? Tropical meteorologists want to answer these questions, and they're using Virginia as home base for their research right now. This high-flying research with far-reaching impacts can help make us safer during hurricane season.
When you see this plane, you may think of spy-work and modern warfare.
IMAGE: NASA Goddard
But these drones have a different target. Their weapons are tools of scientific investigation. Their goal: to interrogate tropical systems like never before.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility has these two special guests for the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel Mission (HS3). This is the mission's second year, and runs through late September.
CLICK HERE for the NASA Wallops photo gallery of the HS3 campaign.
These two Global Hawk aircraft are re-purposed robotic drones that can fly up to 28 hours at a time, as high as 12.3 miles, and cover more than 12,600 miles in one flight!
IMAGE: NASA Goddard
This stamina means they can fly two to three times longer, and reach farther, than traditional manned "hurricane hunter" planes. Storms previously inaccessible are now within reach.
Scott Braun, the HS3 Principal Investigator from the Goddard Space Flight Center says, "HS3 was really designed to try and look at both the environmental aspect of the problem and the inner-core part of the problem."
The "environmental hawk" (NASA872, for your reference when you're tracking it) searches for ingredients that feed storm formation and intensification. One still-mysterious ingredient is the Saharan Air Layer, a hot, dusty, dry air-mass blowing off northwest Africa.
The "overstorm hawk" (NASA871) peers into the structure of a storm, looking at the eye and spiral bands for storm intensity changes.
NASA Hurricane Research
NASA Wallops Flight Facility
NASA’s Airborne Science Program
NASA’s Global Hawks