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NOAA UAS Program Participates in NASA's East Pacific Origins and Characteristics of Hurricanes (EPOCH) Project

NOAA UAS Program Participates in NASA's East Pacific Origins and Characteristics of Hurricanes (EPOCH) Project

NASA/NOAA Team fly Global Hawk UAS missions and drop sondes into Franklin and Harvey

The HOPE-EPOCH campaign was a NASA program manager training opportunity directed at training NASA young scientists in conceiving, planning and executing a major airborne science field program. Additional flight hours were provided by NASA Airborne Science and NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (UASPO) when the full potential of the program was realized in terms of conducting a combined hurricane genesis science investigation and at the same time testing the Global Hawk (GH) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for providing unique High-Altitude, Long-Edurance (HALE), real-time observations for NOAA’s Global Forecast System (GFS) numerical model Data Assimilation (DA) system. A total of 6 flights were provided, 3 from NASA and 3 from NOAA. However, during the one-month availability of the NASA Global Hawk in August, 2017 only 3 flight opportunities were available despite expanding the region of investigation from the Eastern North Pacific (EPAC) to the Gulf of Mexico (GoM)/ Bay of Campeche (BoC), the western Caribbean (Carib) and Western North Atlantic (ATL). Three Tropical Cyclones (TCs) developed and were available for one flight each during the period 1 August to 1 Sept: TC Franklin in the BoC on 9 August, TC Harvey in the GoM on 23-24 August and TC Lidia in the EPAC on 30 August – 1 September. (Mission Summary is attached).  The aircraft will overfly developing tropical cyclones and collect data using 3 on-board instruments (EXRAD, HAMSR, and AVAPS).

Campaign Overview:
-          Science Flight #1: Tropical Storm Franklin, August 8-9

o   NASA-led flight

o   48 sondes were transmitted

o   Major accomplishments:

§  Global Hawk flew Franklin during the strengthening portion of the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2017 season.

§  Data from 48 dropsondes were assimilated in real time for the first time ever in NOAA operational Global Forecast System (GFS) model.  This was a major accomplishment in the long-term goal of employing Global Hawk data to improve real-time forecasts of high-impact weather events like hurricanes and tropical storms.

-          Science Flight #2: Tropical Storm Harvey, August 23-24

o   Song of the flight: “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin

o   NOAA-led flight

o   76 sondes were transmitted

o   Major accomplishments:

§  Observations from this flight were assimilated into forecast models prior to rapid intensification into Hurricane Harvey.

-          Science Flight #3: Tropical Storm Lidia, August 30-31


o   NASA-led flight

o   Major accomplishments:

§  90 sondes were transmitted.  This was only the second time in the history of the Global Hawk project that 90 sondes were successfully deployed.

§  Tropical cyclogenesis was captured through dropsondes.

§  Global Hawk observations were used to upgrade the intensity at the National Hurricane Center.

§  Global Hawk was the only aircraft flying this storm at the time.

§  One of the dropsondes (not originally planned, but added by Jason Dunion during flight), hit the center of the storm and captured the storm’s minimum central pressure.  This is the second time that this has occurred with Global Hawk.

EXRAD (ER-2 X-band Radar) is a high-power airborne Doppler radar developed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center that will be flying for the first time on the Global Hawk. HAMSR (High Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer) is a microwave atmospheric sounder designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. AVAPS (Advanced Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System) collects high vertical resolution in situ measurements of temperature, pressure, relative humidity, wind speed and direction through the deployment of dropsondes. It was jointly developed by NOAA and NCAR.

The Global Hawk unmanned aircraft was developed for the U.S. Air Force by Northrop Grumman and is ideally suited for high altitude, long duration Earth science flights. The ability of the Global Hawk to autonomously fly long distances, remain aloft for extended periods of time and carry large payloads brings a new capability to the science community for measuring, monitoring, and observing remote locations of Earth not feasible or practical with piloted aircraft or space satellites. NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center operates two Global Hawk aircraft for scientific research.

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