NASA & NOAA Team Repositions Global Hawk to NASA Wallops, VA
Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) Team Ready for Hurricane Operations
The NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft touched down Friday morning (0708 EDT) at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast where NOAA and NASA scientists are preparing it for flights over Atlantic hurricanes.
“We’ll be using the Global Hawk to sample weather data from tropical storms as they develop this season,” said Robbie Hood, director of NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Program. “We’re studying the value of using data collected by this unique plane to improve hurricane track and intensity forecasts.”
This is the second year of NOAA’s Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology or SHOUT, a three-year research project with NASA to evaluate the benefits of using the unmanned aircraft in routine operations to improve severe storm forecasts. Initially funded by Congress after Hurricane Sandy, the research also looks at whether unmanned aircraft can fill data gaps if there are problems with weather satellites.
Preliminary analysis of data collected by the Global Hawk last hurricane season during Tropical Storm Erika is showing promise.
“We looked at how adding Global Hawk data affected hurricane forecast models and found that combining satellite data that gives a broad picture of a storm in a particular area with more granular data on wind speed, moisture and temperature from the Global Hawk in the same area can improve forecasts,” said Robert Atlas, director of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab in Miami, who added that more data and analysis is needed.
Able to fly higher and for longer periods of time than manned aircraft, the Global Hawk can stay with a storm as it develops, providing more detail on the evolution of a storm from its very beginnings as it builds off the coast of Africa to its strengthening, weakening and changing over time.
This season, the SHOUT team will look for fairly significant storms that allow multiple flights and more extensive data gathering. “Our skill in forecasting hurricane track has been improving steadily due to better data from satellites, improved models and higher speed computing for forecast models, but we still need improved understanding of the mechanisms that cause hurricanes to intensify rapidly,” Hood said. “Predicting this more accurately would help save lives and property.”
For more information on SHOUT go to: https://uas.noaa.gov/shout/