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NOAA Participates in Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) Experiment

August 9, 2010

Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft (Photo credit: NASA)

NOAA, in partnership with NCAR and NASA, will deploy a new dropsonde system on the NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft during the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment August 15 – September 30, 2010. The dropsonde system will measure vertical profiles of air pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speed in order to better understand how tropical storms develop and help improve predictions of hurricane intensity. The Global Hawk is capable of flying up to 30 hours and with the new system more than 90 sondes can be deployed in a given flight. Eight to ten flights are planned into developing storms over the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic Ocean. Operation of the system will be led by Gary Wick of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) Physical Sciences Division and Michael Black of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) Hurricane Research Division.

The NASA-led GRIP experiment is being conducted in concert with the NSF Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud Systems in the Tropics (PREDICT) and NOAA Intensity Forecasting EXperiment (IFEX). The purpose of the multi-year IFEX is to improve understanding and prediction of hurricane intensity change by collecting observations through the lifecycle of a tropical storm. This information can be used to help improve current operational models and guide the development of the next-generation Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model (HWRF). Together the experiments will field 7 aircraft with a broad range of instrumentation enabling an unprecedented near round-the-clock look at developing tropical storms.

The dropsonde system funded by the NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) project and developed by the NCAR Earth Observing Laboratory is a first-of-its-kind for a high altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft. The system provides a significant advance over current capabilities where around 30 sondes are typically deployed during manned aircraft flights of less than 10 hours. Scientists and forecasters will be able to obtain a much more comprehensive picture of storms and other subjects of interest and increased data will be available for integration into forecast models. Future missions are planned for Arctic research, winter storms, and atmospheric river events.

Contact: Gary Wick