Hurricane Hunters fly storms from Hawaii, Georgia

  • Published
  • By Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs
Aircrews with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters," departed Friday and today for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where they will start flying data-gathering missions Sunday into storms southwest of the Hawaiian Islands.

Operations for Hurricane Joaquin moved to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., Friday. Crews started flying missions in Joaquin from Keesler Air Force Base Sept. 28 and flew their first mission out of Savannah today. The National Hurricane Center forecasts show the Category 1 storm moving away from Bermuda Monday morning as it heads east into the Atlantic.

"Operations were moved to Savannah, Ga., so the Hurricane Hunters could be closer to the storm as it moves north, which saves fuel, allows for a quicker turn-around time, and more time in the storm to collect additional data," said Lt. Col Brian Schroeder, a 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

The data the 53rd WRS collects during their flights is transmitted via satellite communication every 10 minutes to the NHC to assist them with their forecasts and storm warnings.The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are data sparse environments due to the lack of radar and weather balloons in those areas and satellite data can be incomplete.

The Hurricane Hunters fly two different missions: a low-level investigation mission and a fix mission. During an LLI, a 53rd WRS crew will fly 500 to 1,500 feet above the ocean surface to investigate whether the winds are blowing in a counterclockwise rotation, which would indicate a "closed system." Once this is determined, they will begin flying "fix" missions. During a fix 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.

The 53rd WRS's operations area ranges from the 55 longitude line in the Atlantic to the International Dateline in the Pacific. While other C-130 units receive taskings from the geographic combatant commander they support or the Air Force Reserve Command for training missions, the 53rd WRS receives their taskings from the NHC, a Department of Commerce agency.

Through an interagency agreement, tropical weather reconnaissance is governed by the National Hurricane Operations Plan, which requires the squadron to support 24-hour a day continuous operations with the ability to fly up to three storms simultaneously and with a response time of 16 hours.