Friday, August 13, 2010

Starting Tomorrow, NASA In Cyclones' GRIP

NASA's HIRAD Instrument to Provide Unique View of Hurricane Wind Speeds

NASA researchers are furiously preparing for late summer when they will fly a series of unique hurricane instruments, including a brand new instrument that will take two-dimensional wind speed measurements over some of the world's fiercest storms.

The instrument will be part of a six-week NASA mission to study tropical cyclones beginning Aug. 15. The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes mission, or GRIP, will study the creation and rapid intensification of hurricanes. The campaign involves three planes with 15 instruments that will work together to create the most complete view of hurricanes to date.

Scientists and engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. along with their partners from across the country have built the Hurricane Imaging Radiometer, HIRAD for short, to contribute to the effort. HIRAD will help determine the strength and structure of hurricanes by looking at wind speeds deep within the storm. This August and September, HIRAD will fly in the belly of a WB-57 airplane at about 60,000 feet, about twice the altitude of a commercial airliner.

NASA to Fly Into Hurricane Research This Summer

PASADENA, Calif. – Three NASA aircraft will begin flights to study tropical cyclones on Aug. 15 during the agency's first major U.S.-based hurricane field campaign since 2001. The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes mission, or GRIP, will study the creation and rapid intensification of hurricanes. Advanced instruments from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will be aboard two of the aircraft.


Three NASA satellites will play a key role in supplying data about tropical cyclones during the field mission. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, or TRMM, managed by both NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will provide rainfall estimates and help pinpoint the locations of "hot towers" or powerhouse thunderstorms in tropical cyclones. The CloudSat spacecraft, developed and managed by JPL, will provide cloud profiles of storms, which include altitude, temperatures and rainfall intensity. Several instruments onboard NASA's Aqua satellite, including JPL's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), will provide infrared, visible and microwave data that reveal such factors as temperature, air pressure, precipitation, cloud ice content, convection and sea surface temperatures.

The three NASA aircraft taking part in the mission are a DC-8, WB-57 and a remotely piloted Global Hawk. The DC-8 will fly out of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. The WB-57 will be based at the NASA Johnson Space Center's Ellington Field in Houston. The Global Hawk will be piloted and based from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, in Palmdale, Calif., while flying for up to 20 hours in the vicinity of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.