Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NASA's Concludes GRIP Mission

Comprehensive hurricane research project proves successful!

Last week NASA concluded its GRIP (Genesis and Rapid Intensification Process) hurricane research mission aimed at gaining a better understanding of tropical cyclone behavior—how they form, evolve and strengthen, and how they weaken and die. GRIP, which launched in mid-July, promises to revolutionize tropical weather forecasts in years to come.

How it worked
The GRIP mission analyzed storms with manned and unmanned aircraft as well as satellite imagery. The aircraft, ready for deployment at a moments notice, were based along the U.S. Gulf coast and northern Caribbean islands and were equipped with 15 weather instruments, ranging from an advanced microwave sounder to dropsondes—gadgets that record atmospheric and surface measurements as they fall through the atmosphere to the ocean surface.

The perfect specimens
While tropical cyclone impact for the season remains quite low for U.S. coastal communities, two hurricanes, Earl and Karl were significant for GRIP's research. Earl, a category 4 storm that spun through the central and western Atlantic, was analyzed as it rapidly intensified and degraded off the southeast coast before heading northward towards the Canadian maritime region. During this time GRIP sent several aircraft into the storm, penetrating its eye and sending back critical storm data that offered insight into wind speed and direction as well as wind shear's affect on hurricanes moving swiftly through northern latitudes. Similarly, Karl, which was a strengthening category 3 at landfall, was penetrated by additional aircraft as it plowed into the Mexican coast. These aircraft captured valuable data such as cloud temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, convection and sea surface temperatures. GRIP continued it's research after Karl moved inland and deteriorated, also providing perspective on how land friction affects hurricane degradation.

The seasonal scorecard
The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season concludes November 31 and remains quite active, with 18 storms, of which 16 have been named. 8 of those named storms became hurricanes, of which 5 were major.

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