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Unmanned Aircraft Help Navy Study Hurricanes

Unmanned Aircraft Help Navy Study Hurricanes

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NASA Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is capable of flight altitudes greater than 55,000 feet and flight durations of up to 30 hours. NASA Photo

NASA Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is capable of flight altitudes greater than 55,000 feet and flight durations of up to 30 hours. NASA Photo

Forget Moby Dick’s white whale – a tropical cyclone is by far the most difficult ocean beast to track. This rotating system of clouds and thunderstorms, most commonly known to North Americans as a hurricane once it reaches a certain size and speed, is typically several hundred miles wide with winds as fast as 155 miles per hour.

These vast storms are essentially a physics puzzle, in which the interaction of moisture, wind, air, heat and other elements can trick even the most knowledgeable scientists trying to forecast both the path and intensity of a hurricane. In the last decade, weather models have gotten much better at predicting path and landfall, but they have been less skillful when trying to estimate pressure and maximum wind speeds. Read More