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Flying With NOAA

hurricane hunting  banner

The day starts with a glorious tropical sunrise as the NOAA Hurricane Hunters head out to penetrate a rotating swirling mass of clouds that we call a hurricane.  Islands surrounded by turquoise waters pass below.  Soon the last islands have fallen far behind as the P-3 Orion aircraft continues to the east.  The ocean satellite view of hurricanecolor has taken a deep blue hue while puffy white cumulus are seen in every direction.  On the horizon far ahead looms a grey mass of clouds, the outer bands of a hurricane.  As the plane approaches the bands, white caps appear below and then disappear as the first band is penetrated.  The eye of the hurricane is now seen clearly on the radar and the pilot guides the plane towards the center of the storm.  Bands are passed through, each of which has increasingly strong winds approaching the center.  Finally the last circular ring of clouds is entered.  The pilots and science crew are all strapped in to their seats doing their jobs.  The plane is moving up and down, hitting air pockets and dropping, being caught by rising air currents and suddenly moving upward.  Everything and everyone is secured so nothing is flying about but the sensation is one of being in a washing machine.  Suddenly the plane pierces the eyewall and enters into the calm and clear of the eye.  A huge ring of clouds dwarfs the aircraft as it flies through the eye.  A few minutes later, the plane reenters the eyewall clouds and goes from calm to incredible fury.  All the while scientists are monitoring their instruments and taking readings.  After running a transect through the hurricane, the plane comes about and makes another penetration.  A few more penetrations and the P-3 returns to home base, refuels, and prepares for another mission into the hurricane the next day, all in the name of science and trying to help make better forecasts and predictions for the people of the United States and Caribbean ..

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Flying With NOAA ~ Hurricane Hunting

man at instrument console
Personnel and

view of ocean surface from aircraft
Sea Surface

picture of  hurricane eyewall from aircraft
Fringes to
Eye Wall

picture of hurricane eye from aircraft
In the Eye of
the Storm

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Last Updated:
September 30, 2009