A dropsonde is an expendable weather reconnaissance device created by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), designed to be dropped from an aircraft at altitude over water to measure (and therefore track) storm conditions as the device falls to the surface. The sonde contains a GPS receiver, along with pressure, temperature, and humidity (PTH) sensors to capture atmospheric profiles and thermodynamic data. It typically relays this data to a computer in the aircraft by radio transmission.
Dropsonde instruments are typically the only current method to measure the winds and barometric pressure through the atmosphere and down to the sea surface within the core of tropical cyclones far from land-based weather radar. The data obtained is usually fed via radio into supercomputers for numerical weather prediction, enabling forecasters to better predict the effects and intensity, based on computer-generated models using data gathered from previous storms under similar conditions. This helps meteorologists to more reliably establish a storm's potential damage, based on those factors.
Since the early 1970s,United States Air Force Reserves Hurricane Hunters of the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, have employed dropsondes while flying over the ocean to obtain meteorological data on the structure of hurricanes deemed to be of possible concern to coastal and inland locations in the northern Atlantic ocean, northeastern Pacific ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. During a typical hurricane season, Hurricane Hunters deploys 1000 to 1500 sondes on training and storm missions.
Aircraft reconnaissance missions are also sometimes requested to investigate the broader atmospheric structure over the ocean when cyclones may pose a significant threat to the United States. These interests include not only potential hurricanes, but also possible snow events (like nor'easters) or significant tornado outbreaks. The dropsondes are used to supplement the large gaps over oceans within the global network of daily radiosonde launches. Typically satellite data provides an estimate of conditions in such areas, but the increased precision of sondes can improve forecasts, particularly of the storm path.
Dropsondes may also be employed during meteorological research projects.
The sonde is a lightweight system designed to be operated by one person and is launched through a chute installed in the measuring aircraft. The device's descent is slowed and stabilized by a small square-cone parachute, allowing for more readings to be taken before it reaches the ocean surface. The parachute is designed to immediately deploy after release so as to reduce or eliminate any pendulum effect, and the device typically drops for three to five minutes. The sonde has a casing of stiff cardboard to protect electronics and form a more stable aerodynamic profile.
To obtain data in a tropical cyclone, an aircraft (in the US, operated either by NOAA or the U.S. Air Force) flies into the system. A series of dropsondes are typically released as the plane passes through the storm, typically launched with greatest frequency near the center of the storm, including into the eyewall and eye (center), if one exists. Most drops are performed at a flight level of around 10,000 feet (approx. 3,000 meters).
The dropsonde sends back coded data, which includes:
Also included in the report is information on the aircraft, the mission, the dropsonde itself, and other remarks.
A driftsonde is a high altitude, durable weather balloon holding a transmitter and a bank (35 in the first models) of miniature dropsonde capsules which can then be dropped at automatic intervals or remotely. The water-bottle-sized transmitters in the dropsondes have enough power to send information to the balloon during their parachute-controlled fall. The balloon carries a larger transmitter powerful enough to relay readings to a satellite. The single-use sensor packages cost US$300 to $400 each.
After being introduced in April 2007, around a thousand a year are expected to be used to track winds in hurricane breeding grounds off of West Africa, which are outside the operating region of Hurricane Hunter planes.
A weather or sounding balloon is a balloon that carries instruments aloft to send back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed by means of a small, expendable measuring device called a radiosonde. To obtain wind data, they can be tracked by radar, radio direction finding, or navigation systems. Balloons meant to stay at a constant altitude for long periods of time are known as transosondes. Weather balloons that do not carry an instrument pack are used to determine upper-level winds and the height of cloud layers. For such balloons, a theodolite or total station is used to track the balloon's azimuth and elevation, which are then converted to estimated wind speed and direction and/or cloud height, as applicable.
A radiosonde is a battery-powered telemetry instrument carried into the atmosphere usually by a weather balloon that measures various atmospheric parameters and transmits them by radio to a ground receiver. Modern radiosondes measure or calculate the following variables: altitude, pressure, temperature, relative humidity, wind, cosmic ray readings at high altitude and geographical position (latitude/longitude). Radiosondes measuring ozone concentration are known as ozonesondes.
The Lockheed WC-130 is a high-wing, medium-range aircraft used for weather reconnaissance missions by the United States Air Force. The aircraft is a modified version of the C-130 Hercules transport configured with specialized weather instrumentation including a dropsonde deployment/receiver system and crewed by a meteorologist for penetration of tropical cyclones and winter storms to obtain data on movement, size and intensity.
Hurricane hunters are aircrews that fly into tropical cyclones to gather weather data. In the United States, the organizations that fly these missions are the United States Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Hunters. Such missions have also been flown by Navy units and other Air Force and NOAA units.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known by its nickname, Hurricane Hunters, is a flying unit of the United States Air Force, and "the only Department of Defense organization still flying into tropical storms and hurricanes." Aligned under the 403rd Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and based at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, with ten aircraft, it flies into tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Central Pacific Ocean for the specific purpose of directly measuring weather data in and around those storms. The 53rd WRS currently operates the Lockheed WC-130J aircraft as its weather data collection platform.
This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.
James Louis Franklin is a former weather forecaster encompassing a 35-year career with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He served as the first branch chief of the newly formed Hurricane Specialist Unit (HSU) before his retirement in 2017.
An atmospheric model is a mathematical model constructed around the full set of primitive dynamical equations which govern atmospheric motions. It can supplement these equations with parameterizations for turbulent diffusion, radiation, moist processes, heat exchange, soil, vegetation, surface water, the kinematic effects of terrain, and convection. Most atmospheric models are numerical, i.e. they discretize equations of motion. They can predict microscale phenomena such as tornadoes and boundary layer eddies, sub-microscale turbulent flow over buildings, as well as synoptic and global flows. The horizontal domain of a model is either global, covering the entire Earth, or regional (limited-area), covering only part of the Earth. The different types of models run are thermotropic, barotropic, hydrostatic, and nonhydrostatic. Some of the model types make assumptions about the atmosphere which lengthens the time steps used and increases computational speed.
Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are low-pressure areas which, along with the anticyclones of high-pressure areas, drive the weather over much of the Earth. Extratropical cyclones are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild showers to heavy gales, thunderstorms, blizzards, and tornadoes. These types of cyclones are defined as large scale (synoptic) low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth. In contrast with tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones produce rapid changes in temperature and dew point along broad lines, called weather fronts, about the center of the cyclone.
Tropical cyclone observation has been carried out over the past couple of centuries in various ways. The passage of typhoons, hurricanes, as well as other tropical cyclones have been detected by word of mouth from sailors recently coming to port or by radio transmissions from ships at sea, from sediment deposits in near shore estuaries, to the wiping out of cities near the coastline. Since World War II, advances in technology have included using planes to survey the ocean basins, satellites to monitor the world's oceans from outer space using a variety of methods, radars to monitor their progress near the coastline, and recently the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles to penetrate storms. Recent studies have concentrated on studying hurricane impacts lying within rocks or near shore lake sediments, which are branches of a new field known as paleotempestology. This article details the various methods employed in the creation of the hurricane database, as well as reconstructions necessary for reanalysis of past storms used in projects such as the Atlantic hurricane reanalysis.
Hurricane Wilma was the most intense tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin on record, with an atmospheric pressure of 882 hPa. Wilma's destructive journey began in the second week of October 2005. A large area of disturbed weather developed across much of the Caribbean Sea and gradually organized to the southeast of Jamaica. By late on October 15, the system was sufficiently organized for the National Hurricane Center to designate it as Tropical Depression Twenty-Four.
Meteorological instruments are the equipment used to sample the state of the atmosphere at a given time. Each science has its own unique sets of laboratory equipment. Meteorology, however, is a science which does not use much lab equipment but relies more on on-site observation and remote sensing equipment. In science, an observation, or observable, is an abstract idea that can be measured and for which data can be taken. Rain was one of the first quantities to be measured historically. Two other accurately measured weather-related variables are wind and humidity. Many attempts had been made prior to the 15th century to construct adequate equipment to measure atmospheric variables.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to meteorology:
The maximum sustained wind associated with a tropical cyclone is a common indicator of the intensity of the storm. Within a mature tropical cyclone, it is found within the eyewall at a distance defined as the radius of maximum wind, or RMW. Unlike gusts, the value of these winds are determined via their sampling and averaging the sampled results over a period of time. Wind measuring has been standardized globally to reflect the winds at 10 metres (33 ft) above the Earth's surface, and the maximum sustained wind represents the highest average wind over either a one-minute (US) or ten-minute time span, anywhere within the tropical cyclone. Surface winds are highly variable due to friction between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, as well as near hills and mountains over land.
The NOAA Hurricane Hunters are a group of aircraft used for hurricane reconnaissance by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They fly through hurricanes to help forecasters and scientists gather operational and research data. The crews also conduct other research projects including ocean wind studies, winter storm research, thunderstorm research, coastal erosion, and air chemistry flights.
Weather reconnaissance is the acquisition of weather data used for research and planning. Typically the term reconnaissance refers to observing weather from the air, as opposed to the ground.
The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.
The Hurricane Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment (RAINEX) is a project to improve hurricane intensity forecasting via measuring interactions between rainbands and the eyewalls of tropical cyclones. The experiment was planned for the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. This coincidence of RAINEX with the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season led to the study and exploration of infamous hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia, and Rita. Where Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita would go on to cause major damage to the US Gulf coast, Hurricane Ophelia provided an interesting contrast to these powerful cyclones as it never developed greater than a category 1.
This glossary of meteorology is a list of terms and concepts relevant to meteorology and atmospheric science, their sub-disciplines, and related fields.
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