NASA began its latest hurricane science field campaign by flying an unmanned Global Hawk over the Atlantic Ocean’s Hurricane Leslie during a day-long flight from California to Virginia.
With the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission, NASA for the first time will be flying Global Hawks from the U.S. East Coast. The Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) took off from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.,Sept. 6, 2012, and landed at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., on Sept. 7 after spending 10 hours collecting data on Hurricane Leslie. The month-long HS3 mission will help researchers and forecasters uncover information about how hurricanes and tropical storms form and intensify.
NASA will fly two Global Hawks from Wallops during the HS3 mission. The aircraft, which can stay in the air for as long as 28 hours and fly over hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet, will be operated by pilots in ground control stations at Wallops and Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The mission targets the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change. The aircraft help scientists decipher the relative roles of the large-scale environment and internal storm processes that shape these systems. Studying hurricanes is a challenge for a field campaign like HS3 because of the small sample of storms available for study and the great variety of scenarios under which they form and evolve. HS3 flights will continue into early October 2012 and be repeated from Wallops during the 2013 and 2014 hurricane seasons.