Monday, 22 July 2013

Hurricane Hunters

It's really amazing the gamut of tv shows that are available for viewing these days.
On weekends, if one is not a sports fan, sometimes it's almost impossible to find anything decent to watch.  A show that will capture your attention and hold on to it, so you're not surfing from one channel to the next.
This weekend, I ended up on The Weather Channel, yes that's what I said, The Weather Channel.
I was not sorry. I found a rather intriguing show called Hurricane Hunters.
I am a closet meteorologist at heart, after dabbling in the science at school and university.

Through the years, living on an island in the Caribbean situated along the hurricane path, we have always had weather advisories/bulletins that were relayed from "the reconnaissance aircraft."
Growing up, I imagined it to be some kind of plane flying directly into the hurricane to gather data, and I knew it had to be dangerous, but....little did I know how dangerous.

Hurricane Hunters (The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron) is part of the Air Force Reserve, and is the only organization in the Department of Defense  that still flies into tropical storms and hurricanes since 1914.
They are based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
They operate ten Lockheed-Martin WC-130J aircraft and the crews are a part of the 403rd Wing.

Hurricane hunter aircraft (National Weather Service)

I had no idea that there were so many planes being used, for I had always wondered how this plane "in my head" would be carrying out these daredevil missions every 3-4 hours to bring us an update on a weather system in our area.
The show is in a half hour mini-series format and depicts the officers flying the hurricane planes directly into a hurricane to gather all data including wind speed, barometric pressure, eye location and size.
The planes are equipped with sophisticated computer systems, radar and weather measuring devices.
The crew flies the plane into the eye of the hurricane, and searches for the exact center of the eye where the winds measure 0 knots and the barometric pressure is lowest.
The eye is surrounded by the eye wall, a ring of thunderstorms where the most severe weather occurs.
In the center, even though there are mostly clear skies, the centrifugal force is very strong.

The primary source of energy for the development of a hurricane is latent heat. The temperature of the ocean water must be over 27 degrees C.
In areas of weather anomalies, the hurricane hunters fly the plane very low above the sea gathering data to check for intensification.
As the anomalies intensify, they either become a tropical storm or a hurricane.

All this data is then relayed to weather services (National Hurricane Center in Miami) and the hurricane specialists there then use it to predict the path of the hurricane and warn the prospective areas.
I can't begin to imagine living through a hurricane season without the services of these hurricane hunters. Due to them risking their own lives, many lives and homes are saved.
With the information that we are forewarned with, we have time to secure our possessions and stock up on foodstuff, water, medical supplies, seek out safe havens, and make sure our pets are safe and sound.
We owe a lot of gratitude to these brave souls, and I tip my hat to them. 
Here is thewebsite.
To read more about the life of a hurricane, go here.
An interesting article here.

All images were borrowed from the internet


  1. Thank you for that information and explanation Virginia. Having lived through three hurricanes which have simply been tracked by radar up the coast of the UK (the North West of Scotland radar station is across the valley from me) it's fascinating to see how a tropical storm is tracked.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the post GB.
    With all the technology today, it's almost impossible for anything to get past a radar. A small blip on the screen is immediately given attention.

  3. I must have a seen a similar programme, some time ago now, because I recall thinking how brave those guys were. And every time I've seen hurricane reports since I have thought of those planes and the risks they take on behalf of the poppulations in the hurricane zone.
    You say "I am a closet meteorologist at heart". I think many of us are. I have studied diaries through the ages and there isn't one that doesn't mention the weather - often on a daily basis with temperature or rainfall measurements, even centuries ago.

  4. Wow, reading and studying diaries must be enlightening on so many fronts.
    I still have practically all of my diaries from my teenage years in storage. What a treat they will be when my daughter gets to read them when I'm gone. Half of the things I told her not to do, I had already done!!! I'm sure I must have mentioned the weather in several entries, especially when I was lovestruck.

  5. I had no idea there was a show called Hurricane Hunters! I teach about hurricanes in my weather unit and we do an activity about Hurricane Hunters. I need to check out this show and see if I can show it to my classes. :o) Thanks!

  6. It airs on the Weather Channel on Monday nights at 9/8c.
    I'm sure you can record it and use for educational purposes.
    May I say again what a terrific teacher you are....YES you are!!!

    1. Tammy here is the website if you want to research the show a bit.


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