U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunters Finish Flying Tropical Storm Cristobal

The U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” finished flying Tropical Storm Cristobal on June 7.

The squadron flew seven missions into the storm, which began June 1 as Tropical Depression Three. The Hurricane Hunters provided reconnaissance starting June 2 from the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico until the storm made landfall over the Louisiana coast June 7.

Hurricane Hunters flying Tropical Storm Cristobal
Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, looks out the port side of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft June 5, 2020 in the Gulf of Mexico. The Hurricane Hunters were tasked to fly a fixed mission to locate the center of Tropical Storm Cristobal and the data gathered was sent to the National Hurricane Center for their weather model forecasts. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)

“Our mission is to collect weather data from within the storm environment, find the center, and transmit that data to the National Hurricane Center,” said Mark Withee, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron navigator. “After the NHC receives our data, they feed it into their forecast models for their updated model runs.”

This is the third storm of the season, which started early with the Hurricane Hunters flying their first storm May 16 to investigate a tropical depression near the Bahamas. The system later became Tropical Storm Arthur, which was the sixth consecutive year with a named storm in May.

For Cristobal, the Hurricane Hunters were tasked to fly an investigation mission June 2, but this was changed to a fix mission by the time they took off. A low-level invest mission is flown at 500 to 1,500 feet to determine if there is a closed circulation, and if there is a closed circulation they begin flying fix missions into the system. Once a system becomes a tropical storm or hurricane, they begin flying at higher altitudes, ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet depending on the severity of the storm. Aircrews fly through the eye of a storm four to six times per mission to locate the low-pressure center and circulation of the storm. During each pass through the center, they release a dropsondes, which collect pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed on its descent to the ocean surface.

“These missions would not be possible without the tireless efforts of the Airmen from the 403rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination, All Hurricanes,” said Withee, who added that CARCAH is a three-man unit, located at the NHC and is a subunit of the 53rd WRS, whose main mission is to act as a single point of contact to coordinate all the reconnaissance flight requirements into the storms. “They’re both the linchpins to generating, maintaining and sustaining our aerial weather reconnaissance mission; we wouldn’t be able to perform our duties without them.”

By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza, 403rd Wing Public Affairs




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