Tag Archives: Hurricane Hunters

The Massive U.S. Military Response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas; On Alert For Irma In Florida.

Aircraft, Rescue Personnel and Ships Respond to U.S. National Emergency.

The U.S. military has fielded a massive rescue and relief operation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey along the Texas coast. News media and military sources report “more than 1,000 active-duty troops” will provide rescue and relief operations to the region, with an additional 1,100 prepared to deploy, according to the Department of Defense.

The initial U.S. military response to Hurricane Harvey included the Coast Guard and Texas National Guard. As the scope of the storm grew additional active-duty units, including significant air assets, from across the U.S. were put on alert and then tasked with rescue and support operations in the storm-stricken region.

“Approximately 1,600 active-duty military personnel are deployed to the affected area,” US Northern Command, who controls active duty U.S. military personnel in North America, said in a statement to media on Thursday, August 31.

The U.S. military’s Northern Command located at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colorado has directed the deployment of 73 helicopters, mostly various versions of Blackhawks, 4 Lockheed C-130 cargo aircraft and 8 elite Air Force Para-Rescue units to support aid and rescue operations in the region. The units come from locations around the United States.

Media outlets including CNN have reported that the Air Force has flown rescue/relief missions using “Seven HC-130 Combat King IIs, four C-130 Hercules, 11 HH-60 Pavehawks, five C-17 Globemaster IIIs, one E-3 Sentry AWACS, one E-8 JSTARS and one KC-10 Extender.” Additional reports have indicated at least one U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft has joined the operation.

USAF Pararescue operators, special operations aviators and crewman return from a rescue mission on August 29, 2017 to Easterwood Airport in College Station, Texas. The mission rescued 11 people from the flooded area in a single sortie. The aircraft from the 347th Rescue Group of Moody AFB, Georgia were deployed in support of FEMA during Hurricane Harvey. (USAF Photo by SSG. Ryan Callaghan)

As of yesterday there have been a reported “4,700” aerial rescues conducted by military assets in the region. Because of the size of the military air relief effort, airports in the region are filled to capacity with aircraft assisting in the search and rescues.

The U.S. Navy dispatched the vessels USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), a Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship and the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) to the Gulf region in support of humanitarian aid and rescue operations. The USS Kearsarge is equipped with a flight deck to support helicopter and tilt-rotor flight operations and has a waterline level stern well deck for deploying surface craft including large assault landing hovercraft.

The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) has been deployed to the Texas gulf coast in support of humanitarian aid operations in the region. (USN Photo)

Depending on the source, approximately 66 people have reportedly lost their lives so far in Hurricane Harvey, a relatively low number in part due to effective early warning and evacuation but also partially because of a very large U.S. military response to the crisis. This casualty figure, while very significant, contrasts with the approximately 8,000 lives lost in the Galveston, Texas hurricane at the turn of the century in 1900. That hurricane happened before accurate weather prediction, advanced communication and rescue resources existed.

The gigantic tropical storm, that began on August 17 and continued until September 2, was the first storm of its type to hit the U.S. mainland since 2005 when Hurricane Wilma landed. Sustained winds in excess of 100 MPH and the worst flooding ever recorded in the history of the region caused widespread destruction. The city of Port Arthur, Texas is one of several cities that remain completely submerged following the storm, with even their evacuation centers becoming flooded necessitating the relocation of rescued people initially placed there by aid workers. In some areas floodwaters, the worst ever, did not reach their highest point until days after the storm.

Another tropical storm in the region, Hurricane Irma, is forecasted to make landfall in Florida this Saturday. Satellite surveillance on Wednesday measured the storm as over twice the width of Florida. Airborne weather reconnaissance and sea-based data collection have measured sustained wind speeds of 195 MPH in the approaching storm as the U.S. hurricane season continues.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has flown weather reconnaissance missions into the rapidly approaching Hurricane Irma off the Florida coast using their newly upgraded and repainted Lockheed WP-3D Orion N42RF, named “Kermit”. The aircraft has operated from Tampa, Florida. The crew captured dramatic video of one of their weather reconnaissance missions. During the flight the aircraft dropped a series of parachute-deployed NCAR GPS Dropsonde airborne sensors. The small sensors fall gradually through the hurricane suspended by their parachute and collect wind velocity and directional data. Once a pattern of dropsonde sensors are released into the storm by the WP-3D aircraft they transmit data from their wild ride through the storm back to monitoring stations to provide intelligence about the storm’s direction, strength and speed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates two hurricane surveillance Lockheed WP-3D Orions from Florida to gather weather intelligence from upcoming storms like Hurricane Irma scheduled to land in Florida this weekend. (NOAA Photo)

At this link you can find the daily schedule of the NOAA aircraft activity for today.

The NOAA aircraft mission plan for Sept. 7, 2017.



Here’s the most updated data about Isaac you can find on the Web: received in real time from a Hurricane Hunter’s dropsonde

The following data has just been collected by a dropsonde from a WP-3D Orion (N42RF) currently flying over the Gulf of Mexico to analyse “Isaac”.

In other words, this represents the most updated information about the Tropical Storm you can find on the Internet since it is transmitted in real time by the aircraft.

Indeed, thanks to a reader of my site, I’ve found a site that allows you to live track, not only the NOAA flights, but the USAF WC-130J flights too with realtime weather and dropsonde data.

Here’s the site (just refresh it every now and then to get update info): http://tropicalatlantic.com/recon/live/

And here’s the tutorial: http://tropicalatlantic.com/recon/pages/ge_recon_tutorial/

Dropsonde data:

Product: NOAA Temp Drop (Dropsonde) Message (UZNT13 KWBC)
Transmitted: 27th day of the month at 21:43Z
Aircraft: Lockheed WP-3D Orion (Reg. Num. N42RF)
Storm Number: 09
Storm Name: Isaac (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 28
Observation Number: 07

Part A…

Date: Near the closest hour of 21Z on the 27th day of the month
Highest Mandatory Level For Which Wind Was Reported: 850mb
Coordinates: 26.3N 86.3W
Location: 263 miles (423 km) to the WSW (244°) from Tampa, FL, USA.
Marsden Square: 081 (About)

Level Geo. Height Air Temp. Dew Point Wind Direction Wind Speed
985mb (29.09 inHg) Sea Level (Surface) 27.4°C (81.3°F) 26.3°C (79.3°F) 320° (from the NW) 26 knots (30 mph)
1000mb -132m (-433 ft) This level does not exist in this area of the storm above the surface level.
925mb 560m (1,837 ft) 24.2°C (75.6°F) 24.1°C (75.4°F) 305° (from the NW) 17 knots (20 mph)
850mb 1,300m (4,265 ft) 20.6°C (69.1°F) 19.6°C (67.3°F) 290° (from the WNW) 26 knots (30 mph)

Information About Radiosonde:
– Launch Time: 21:28Z
– About Sonde: A descending radiosonde tracked automatically by satellite navigation with no solar or infrared correction.

Remarks Section…

Splash Location: 26.32N 86.31W
Splash Time:21:31ZRelease Location: 26.33N 86.33W
Release Time:21:28:15ZSplash Location: 26.32N 86.31W
Splash Time:21:31:48ZMean Boundary Level Wind (mean wind in the lowest 500 geopotential meters of the sounding):
– Wind Direction: 310° (from the NW)
– Wind Speed: 24 knots (28 mph)Deep Layer Mean Wind (average wind over the depth of the sounding):
– Wind Direction: 295° (from the WNW)
– Wind Speed: 24 knots (28 mph)
– Depth of Sounding: From 751mb to 985mb

Average Wind Over Lowest Available 150 geopotential meters (gpm) of the sounding:
– Lowest 150m: 159 gpm – 9 gpm (522 geo. feet – 30 geo. feet)
– Wind Direction: 320° (from the NW)
– Wind Speed: 27 knots (31 mph)

Sounding Software Version: AEV 07450

Part B: Data For Significant Levels…

Significant Temperature And Relative Humidity Levels…
Level Air Temperature Dew Point
985mb (Surface) 27.4°C (81.3°F) 26.3°C (79.3°F)
850mb 20.6°C (69.1°F) 19.6°C (67.3°F)
766mb 17.4°C (63.3°F) 16.4°C (61.5°F)
751mb 15.6°C (60.1°F) 15.6°C (60.1°F)
Significant Wind Levels…
Level Wind Direction Wind Speed
985mb (Surface) 320° (from the NW) 26 knots (30 mph)
977mb 320° (from the NW) 28 knots (32 mph)
953mb 305° (from the NW) 21 knots (24 mph)
940mb 305° (from the NW) 23 knots (26 mph)
925mb 305° (from the NW) 17 knots (20 mph)
902mb 295° (from the WNW) 17 knots (20 mph)
879mb 295° (from the WNW) 17 knots (20 mph)
867mb 300° (from the WNW) 20 knots (23 mph)
858mb 280° (from the W) 25 knots (29 mph)
850mb 290° (from the WNW) 26 knots (30 mph)
751mb 290° (from the WNW) 23 knots (26 mph)

Winds at a particular level are peak winds since a dropsonde only records momentary slices of data at each level as it falls through the atmosphere. These winds are not 1 minute sustained. The highest wind observed in the “Significant Wind Levels” section is noted in bold.
Here’s the route currently being flown by the WP-3D:

And here’s the current position of the U.S. Air Force WC-130J:


Watch NOAA weather reconnaissance planes flying inside Tropical Storm "Isaac" in almost real-time

As the center of tropical storm “Isaac” passed south of Key West (at around 5.00 pm local on Aug. 26), moving west-northwest with maximum sustained winds at 60 mph, about 500 flights at Miami International Airport had already been cancelled while 22 F-16s from Florida’s Homestead Air Reserve Base were already moved to Naval Air Station Forth Worth in Texas.

Several NOAA weather reconnaissance missions are currently flying around Isaac. You can follow all of them in almost real time using Flightradar24.com that broadcast their position on a map.

Currently flying north of Cuba (around the Bahamas) are NOAA 42 (Lockheed WP-3D Orion) and NOAA 49 (Gulfstream G-IV), both from MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, coordinated by National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.

You can track them using this link (be sure to show the cloud layer through the settings button) whereas their daily schedule can be found here.

Screed dump from Flightradar24.com

Both NOAA’s “Hurricane Hunters” are heavily instrumented flying laboratories capable to take atmospheric and radar measurements within tropical cyclones. The NOAA G-IV usually operates at high altitude (its Mode-S shows now FL450 – 45,000 feet) to collect data that is used to predict hurricane tracks and intensity.

The following video shows how those weather reconnaissance missions work.