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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tropical Storm Erica .... Hurricane Hunters !

Dreaming about being chased generally means that you are "being told by your unconsciousness that you're avoiding an issue or a person," – being chased by an unknown in darkness could scare most people !

In India, we hear cyclone warnings ! – people are instructed not to venture into sea and when it is apprehended to be severe, people are evacuated to safer places.  In advanced Countries, much more happens aided by technology !!! - It is not only dreams that chase or being chased - Storm chasing is broadly defined as the pursuit of any severe weather condition, regardless of motive, which can be curiosity, adventure, scientific investigation, or for news or media coverage. While witnessing a tornado is the single biggest objective for most chasers, many chase thunderstorms and delight in viewing cumulonimbus and related cloudstructure, watching a barrage of hail and lightning, and seeing what skyscapes unfold.

West Indies is a region of the Caribbean Basin and North Atlantic Ocean  consisting of many islands.  Going by Worldatlas.com, the Caribbean, long referred to as the West Indies, includes more than 7,000 islands; of those, 13 are independent island countries.   Among them are the Lesser Antilles, much smaller islands to the southeast, divided into two  groups, the Leeward Islands and Windward Islands.

NOAA [The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts seas and skies, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts research to improve understanding and stewardship of the environment.

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by names such as hurricane, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone.  A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds between 34 knots (63 km/h) and 64 knots (119 km/h). At this point, the distinctive cyclonic shape starts to develop, although an eye is not usually present. Government weather services first assign names to systems that reach this intensity (thus the term named storm). Although tropical storms are less intense than a hurricane they can produce significant damage.  A hurricane or typhoon is a system with sustained winds of at least 34 metres per second (66 kn) or 74 miles per hour (119 km/h).

Tropical Storm Erika continued its trek across Atlantic Ocean late Tuesday [25.8.15], the National Hurricane Center said.As of 5 p.m. ET, the storm had winds of 40 mph and was located 605 miles east of the Caribbean's Leeward Islands. It's moving to the west at 20 mph.Erika would deliver needed rainfall to these islands, many of which are in a drought, AccuWeather said.Though the exact track of Erika remains uncertain, the storm is forecast to move across the Caribbean, then become a Category 1 hurricane by the weekend as it spins near the Bahamas.Tropical Storm Erika is currently centered just approximately 100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and is moving quickly westward at 17 mph. The first direct impacts to land should be felt through the morning hours on Thursday across the northernmost Leeward Islands. Antigua and Barbuda are the first two islands in the path of Erika's relatively small concentration of tropical storm-force winds.

Now to the more phenomenal ‘hunting’- Hurricane Hunters are aircrews that fly into tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean and North-eastern Pacific Ocean to gather weather data. Currently, the U.S. units 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 in Vermont and other Air Force and NOAA units.

Five U.S. aircrews have been lost during such missions since they started during World War II. Before satellites were used to find storms, military aircraft flew routine weather reconnaissance tracks to detect formation of tropical cyclones. Today, satellites have revolutionized weather forecasters' ability to detect signs of such cyclones before they form, yet they cannot determine the interior barometric pressure of a hurricane nor provide accurate wind speed information — data needed to accurately predict hurricane development and movement.The idea of aircraft reconnaissance of hurricane storm trackers was put forth by Captain W. L. Farnsworth of the Galveston Commercial Association in the early 1930s and "storm patrol bill"was  passed both the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives in 1936.

NOAA besides their fleet of aircrafts and specialized equipment have trained Meteorologistswho work  as Flight Directors on NOAA's heavy aircraft (hurricane hunters). AOC Flight Directors use a combination of aviation training and meteorological expertise to assist NOAA scientists and customers with both pre-flight planning and real-time mission decisions.

In their FAQ, NOAA states that such flights do not fly over the top of hurricane.  The top of a hurricane can be over 50,000 feet high, and aircrafts could never get up there (they can go up to 30,000 feet). Besides, the weather NOAA are  interested in analysing at the bottom of the storm, which will affect the coastline it hits. For this reason, they  fly in as low as safely possible. This altitude can be anywhere from 1,000 feet to 10,000 feet.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Aug 2015.

Image credits : http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ & accuweather.com 

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