According to a NASA web page, the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment starts today and runs through September 30th. This is an aircraft campaign that will provide a sustained and unprecedented look at the inner workings of hurricane formation and intensification.
The GRIP mission will include NASA’s DC-8 and WB-57 planes. This has been done before. But for the first time, NASA will also fly its Global Hawk – the same Northrup Grumman-made model as flown by the U.S. Air Force.
NASA’s Global Hawk, an unmanned drone with a 30-hour flight range, will take off and land from and be piloted remotely at Dryden Flight Research Center in California. It will fly at up to 65,000 feet and provide with various sensors the longest continuous observation of tropical cyclone development ever recorded by an aircraft. NASA scientists hope that this data will offer new insights into the fundamental questions of hurricane genesis and intensification.
GRIP scientists will work with NOAA’s Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX) and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud-systems in the Tropics (PREDICT) campaigns. The joint efforts will allow up to six aircraft to observe a single storm at the same time. NOAA’s IFEX is a multi-year project headed by its Hurricane Research Division designed to ultimately improve the forecasting of hurricane strength at landfall. NSF’s PREDICT is focused more closely on the science behind cyclogenesis.
I’m sure that the involved scientists hope nature cooperates by providing plenty of hurricanes during the climatologically peak period over the next few weeks. Even if the experiments don’t have an immediate payoff in terms of improved forecasts, the operational forecasters can’t help but benefit by the tremendous increase in observations that will result from these three experiments.