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Hurricane Hunters to fly Atlantic and Pacific missions this week


Personnel with the Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi are flying missions in the Atlantic and Pacific this week.


Today, one team is on its way to Hawaii to fly data-gathering missions into Hurricane Madeline while the other is headed out to the Atlantic for a mission into Tropical Depression Eight, which off the coast of North Carolina. The unit has also been flying missions into Tropical Depression Nine, which is projected by the National Hurricane Center to develop into a tropical storm and head toward the Florida Coast later this week.


The Pacific team is scheduled to arrive in Hawaii today and fly their first mission Tuesday.


As of this morning, Hurricane Madeline was a category-three storm about 700 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii, and is projected to pass near Hawaii’s Big Island Thursday, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecast.   

The Hurricane Hunters are typically inside a storm for about six hours collecting data including changes in pressure, movement and wind speed, said Maj. Nicole Mitchell, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer. That data gives forecaster a more complete picture of what’s going on in the storm so they can improve models and present more accurate forecasts.


During a “fix” mission, the aircraft flies around 10,000 feet above the surface of the ocean and collects weather data such as temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, and surface pressure. Aircrews fly through the eye of a storm four to six times to locate the low-pressure center and circulation of the storm. During each pass through the eye, they release a dropsonde, which collects weather data on its descent to the ocean surface, specifically gathering data on the surface winds and pressure. An automated data package is sent out every 10 minutes while manual observations, such as the dropsonde data, are sent as necessary.


To keep up with the Hurricane Hunters mission, check out the plan of the day, follow missions on Google Earth or visit the National Hurricane Center. For more Hurricane Hunters and 403rd Wing updates follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


For more information contact the 403rd Wing Public Affairs at 228-377-2056 or 403WG.PA2@us.af.mil.