Hurricane Hunters flying Tropical Storm Calvin

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Reserve “Hurricane Hunters,” assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, are flying weather reconnaissance missions into Tropical Storm Calvin to assist with National Hurricane Center forecasts.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, or “Hurricane Hunters,” along with maintenance personnel are operating out of Kalaeloa Airport, Kapolei, Hawaii. They arrived Sunday and flew their first mission into the storm Monday.

Calvin is about 400 miles east of the Big Island of Hawaii and is projected to pass near Hawaii’s Big Island tonight into Wednesday, according to the NHC advisory. Calvin became a tropical depression last Tuesday, a tropical storm Wednesday, and then intensified into the Western Hemisphere’s first major hurricane of this year Friday and is now a tropical storm.

The information the 53rd WRS collects assists forecasters, because while satellites do provide a lot of information, they don’t provide everything, said Lt. Col. Grant Wagner, 53rd WRS mission commander for the weather deployment.

“The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are data sparse environments as they lack radar and weather balloons in the area,” said Wagner. “We are able to get into the storm, find the center, and get that ground truth data that assists with movement and intensity forecasts. The data we collect can improve a forecast by anywhere from 15-25 percent.”

During a mission, the aircraft 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.

The unit will continue to fly missions into the storm until Wednesday, said Wagner.