After a lengthy waiting period, we have successfully deployed our instrumentation to make aerosol measurements inside a tropical storm/hurricane.
As of our last post, instrumentation was mounted aboard the NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft but we were awaiting installation of an inlet. This is not a trivial task, as any structure mounted to the exterior of an airplane requires a fair amount of hardware fabrication and engineering review in order to ensure flight safety. After a doubler plate was manufactured (at the interface between the aircraft and the inlet), we were cleared to make measurements. Below is a picture of our inlet on the plane (directly forward of the american flag).
NOAA WP-3D Kermit, with aerosol inlet
With the inlet installed, we were able to fly a brief test-flight near Tampa, FL, and three flights into CRISTOBAL last week. These flights were back-to-back-to-back (1 every 24-hours) with 2am takeoffs, sampling the storm at 3km altitude during its transition from depression to tropical storm (8/24), as a tropical storm (8/25), and as a weak category-1 hurricane (8/26). GOES-IR images below show the storm’s minimal organization as it slowly moved North from Hispaniola.
Tropical-Depression (3) – 8/24
Tropical Storm Cristobal – 8/25
Hurricane Cristobal – 8/26
Below are a few pictures from the flights. Since there was only moderate convection, turbulence on the aircraft generally wasn’t too uncomfortable. Our 2-am take-off time allowed a very pleasant sunrise about halfway through each flight. We could even see a rainbow in the storm vicinity, an unexpected sight while inside a hurricane!
In the NE quadrant of Hurricane Cristobal. Low level clouds with lots of cirrus outflow
Rainbow during Hurricane Cristobal Flight
Typical view from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft, rain.
Sunrise flying into Tropical Storm Cristobal
If able to sample more organized storms, we hope to observe new particle formation inside the hurricane eye, a potential mechanism for intensifying the storm. Additionally, we aim to assess how hurricanes can redistribute biological particles that could act as efficient seeds for ice clouds at higher altitudes.
No storms are on the immediate horizon, but it is looking like a deployment to St. Croix is going to happen in the last half of September.
Thanks for reading. Luke
Welcome to the LARGE (Langley Aerosol Research Group Experiment) blog. We are a group of scientists at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA who study the chemical, optical, and microphysical properties of atmospheric aerosols and their effects on climate and air quality. We are involved in many exciting experiments with vastly different objectives and applications, but this blog will begin by focusing on a project this summer/fall to assess the distribution and impacts of aerosols on hurricanes.
This project is just starting but the hurricane season is already underway with the passage of Hurricane Arthur, which made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on July 4, 2014. Our work began the following week with installation of our instrumentation aboard the NOAA WP-3D aircraft known as “Kermit” (the other operational WP-3D aircraft is called “Miss Piggy”). Operating scientific instrumentation aboard airplanes requires a lot of planning and adherence to strict guidelines to ensure flight safety and collection of high-quality data. Since we make measurements in-situ (by bringing ambient air inside the aircraft cabin), our goal is to design a system that routes aerosols into the cabin and to our instruments without losing particles along the way. This involves a complex web of tubing, fittings, and cabling shown below.
Front-view of the LARGE rack onboard the NOAA WP-3D aircraft.
Back-view of LARGE plumbing.
We still have work to do to complete our instrument integration, especially to install an aerosol inlet on the aircraft. This will be completed soon and we will be poised to participate in the next hurricane flights! Check back later for more details about our instrumentation, science objectives, and pictures from inside the next Atlantic hurricane…
More information on our research can be found at the links below:
NOAA P-3 aircraft at the Aircraft Operations Center: http://www.aoc.noaa.gov/aircraft_lockheed.htm