EOL Seminar: Joseph Cione (NOAA)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 10:30 to 11:30
FL2-1022 (Large Auditorium)
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Whitney Robinson
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NOAA’s use of the Coyote UAS in Hurricane Edouard to enhance basic understanding and improve model physics

Joseph J. Cione

The hurricane boundary layer is the lowest layer of the atmosphere where momentum is exchanged with the surface and where heat and moisture are extracted from the ocean. As such, this region of the storm is critical as it relates to tropical cyclone formation, maintenance, intensification and weakening. Despite the inherent importance of this environment, flight safety risks currently limit the routine collection of wind, pressure, temperature and moisture observations near the ocean-atmosphere interface. In-situ measurements below 500m in high wind hurricane conditions are typically from point-source, instantaneous, GPS dropsonde observations. The lack of continuous data coverage at low levels is a primary reason why hurricane boundary layer structure and associated physical processes within this critical region of the storm remain poorly understood and inadequately represented in today’s operational models. In turn, inadequate representation of physical processes often leads to errors in data initialization and assimilation, which can adversely impact the accuracy of subsequent hurricane forecasts. It is believed that an improved understanding of boundary layer processes, through targeted, enhanced and continuous observation using low altitude unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will be essential in order to significantly improve scientific understanding and future predictions of hurricane structure and intensity.

During recent reconnaissance and surveillance missions into Hurricane Edouard, NOAA, along with partners Sensintel and ItriCorp, conducted the first-ever air-deployed, UAS experiments into a tropical cyclone environment. On September 16th 2014, Sensintel’s 13lb, 5-ft wingspan Coyote UAS was released into Major Hurricane Edouard’s eye. NOAA’s P-3 manned aircraft launched the UAS and provided in-flight command, control and data delivery support for the Coyote. At an approximate altitude of 2900ft, the UAS penetrated Edouard’s western eyewall and recorded platform record-breaking winds of 100kt as it proceeded to ‘orbit’ this high wind region during its historic 28-minute inaugural mission.

On September 17th, a second successful P-3/Coyote UAS flight was conducted. Here, the experimental design was to send the UAS along an inflow channel similar to what an air parcel might experience as it spirals towards the storm’s center of circulation. This event set endurance records for the Coyote platform as it remained airborne within the hurricane boundary layer for 68 minutes (at controlled altitudes ranging from 1200-2500ft).

Data and subsequent analyses from this new and promising platform are expected to provide highly unique and potentially groundbreaking insights into a critical region of the hurricane environment that is typically difficult to observe in sufficient detail. Preliminary analyses of meteorological as well as Coyote flight data collected during these landmark UAS missions are currently underway.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014, 10:30AM
NCAR-Foothills Laboratory
3450 Mitchell Lane
Bldg. 2 Large Auditorium (Rm 1022)