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Scientists says Air Force Reserve unit made direct hit with typhoon buoy drop

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brian Bahret
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The Western Pacific offers scientists a test bed to explore the foundations of typhoons and how they interact with the ocean, and with the help of Air Force Reservists deployed here, the scientists are collecting the exact data they had hoped to capture.

In an experiment called Tropical Cyclone Structure-2008, scientists from the Naval Research Lab in Monterey, Calif., enlisted the aid of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters" who deployed here in late July to airdrop 12 oceanic data buoys in Typhoon Hagupit's path Sept. 20. The scientists' goal was to collect data on the storm's interaction with the Philippine Sea.

Dr. Peter Black, the study's lead scientist on Andersen, said the typhoon crossed the line of buoys Monday. "We had a direct hit on the line of buoys we put out and we had 11 of 12 of the buoys reporting back winds, pressure, and temperatures."

According to Dr. Black, the buoys help validate the observations recorded by weather satellites that observe the western Pacific.

"More importantly they provide information from the winds, and an estimate of the stress that's working on the ocean surface and the temperature profiles that go down to 150 meters," he said. "It tells us a lot about how the ocean responds and how the feedback mechanism between the hurricane and the ocean operates and helps regulate the flow of moisture into the storm."

The data will help scientists predict how and why the storms form and could potentially help them understand the path they take allowing for more advance notification as storms approach land.

The scientists will also add the oceanic data to hurricane models. "It will provide the basis for modeling experiments that will be done in subsequent years," said Dr. Black.

As the models get more sophisticated, the requirements for observations get more sophisticated. "The time is right," said Dr. Black. "At this particular time in history we're at a point where we can provide both. We have the technology to make these observations we never had before for the models. For the models, we have the ability to run sophisticated calculations in real time because of the advances of computer technology - that was never possible before either."

He added that the WC-130J is a unique delivery tool that allows scientists to penetrate the heart of the typhoons while delivering sophisticated equipment.

In this particular experiment, the scientists in Monterey asked the aircrew to deploy two types of buoys from the back of their WC-130. As the Air Force Reserve Command pilots and navigator helped maintain a steady course at 1,500 feet above the ocean, Master Sgt. Jeff Stack and Tech. Sgt. Vincent Burden, 53rd WRS weather loadmasters, pushed the buoys from the WC-130J's cargo bay.

Dr. Black said the Hurricane Hunters dropped two types of buoys during the. Six of the buoys were minimets, or miniature meteorological station, designed to collect the winds at ocean's surface, surface pressure and sea surface temperature. The Airmen deployed six Autonomous Drifting Ocean Stations, buoys with 150 meters of cable with temperature sensors attached every 10 meters to measure the thermal structure of the ocean. Dr. Black said the ADOS sends back the ocean thermal structure - a key element for the ocean models

For the Hurricane Hunters, no matter the instrument their dropping, they realize the importance of their mission.

Major Dwayne Russell, a pilot with the 53rd WRS who lives on the Gulf Coast, said the Hurricane Hunter's mission is important to him personally. "I'm proud and enthusiastic about flying into hurricanes and typhoons," he said. "I think gathering the information that we gather increases the prediction accuracy of the hurricane centers. Out here in the Pacific it is also adding to the scientific information they haven't had in a long time."

The most important aspect of the mission is its humanitarian implications. "I think it's important and it gives the weather centers important information that is used to save lives," he said. "For me that's very important."