Monday, July 12, 2010

NASA's GRIP Mission to Study Hurricane Behavior

NASA is hopping on the hurricane bandwagon and will soon kick off a new mission aimed at getting a better grip on how tropical storms form and develop into [major] hurricanes. The mission is called GRIP and stands for Genesis and Rapid Intensification Process, and it will fly aircraft and unmanned air vehicles (for up to 20 hours straight) into the storms this summer. Grip is expected to provide a sustained, continuous look at hurricane behavior at critical times during their formation and evolution, i.e. how they strengthen, weaken and die.

The hurricane research fleet for GRIP is made up of one Global Hawk UAV, a McDonnell Douglas DC-8 and a Martin WB-57F Canberra. The six-week program, which begins on August 15, is NASA's first major US-based hurricane field campaign since 2001.

The aircraft will carry a total of 15 instruments, ranging from an advanced microwave sounder to dropsondes that take measurements as they fall through the atmosphere to the ocean surface. In order to determine how a tropical cyclone will behave, the instruments will analyze many factors, including cloud droplet and aerosol concentrations, air temperature, wind speed and direction in storms and on the ocean's surface, air pressure, humidity, lightning, aerosols, and water vapor. The data also will validate the observations from space.

The CloudSat spacecraft will provide cloud profiles of storms, which include altitude, temperatures and rainfall intensity.

Several instruments on board NASA's Aqua satellite will provide infrared, visible and microwave data that reveal such factors as temperature, air pressure, precipitation, cloud ice content, convection and sea surface temperatures.

For more information about GRIP, visit:

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