Aug 21, 1998

CAMEX hurricane hunters prepare

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Here comes Bonnie!


First CAMEX-3 storm aims for Florida

GOES-8 CONUS Visible iconAug. 21, 1998: (This is the sixth in a series of stories covering the ongoing CAMEX mission to hunt hurricane data in a way not done since the 50s. Other stories are linked in below.)

Tropical Storm Bonnie is headed for the southeast United States and a probable rendezvous with the CAMEX-3 scientists who want to measure how a hurricane gains strength and how it is lost when the storm is over land.

The CAMEX-3 team flew the DC-8 Thursday to measure conditions in the area ahead of Bonnie since the moisture and energy there will determine how strong it becomes as a hurricane.


Bonnie was upgraded from tropical depression to storm during the night, and is expected to hit hurricane strength in the next day or two. Its current track would put it at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., where the CAMEX-3 team is based, on Monday morning.

Left: This National Hurricane Center display shows the probability that the center of the tropical cyclone will pass within 120 km (75 mi) of a location during the next 72 hours. Contour levels shown are 10%, 20%, 50% and 100% (links to



"Might be a trip inland if Bonnie tracks at us. Still the most significant feature on the map for us, but I would expect that the following wave will have become TD-04 [tropical depression-4] by this time, and might reach tropical storm strength by the end of the period," wrote CAMEX forecaster R. Wohlman.

"Elsewhere, another wave at 40W has some potential for development, as does the most recent off of the African continent at 21W."

No changes over Florida are expected until Sunday.


"Watch for afternoon thunder storms over much of Florida, with the east coast of Florida remaining in this same regime. I like the current track for Bonnie- but think that they may bend it a bit more south heading more to the south of us (hunch)," Wohlman's forecast continues. "It will depend on the ridge weakening to the north, and right now I don't see anything that looks like it will break it down."

Into the storm: The image at right shows atmospheric instruments protruding from the nose of the instrumentation "superpod" on the port wing of the ER-2 that will study hurricanes at high altitude during CAMEX-3 (links to

). credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA


With the 2- to 3-day forecast, Wohlman foresees a possible trip inland for the CAMEX-3 team. Patrick Air Force Base will be fully exposed to the hurricane's fury. It is on Florida's Atlantic coast, a low, thin strip of land between the ocean and the Indian River before you reach the peninsula proper. The airfield is less than a mile from the beach. Thus, the trip "inland" would be all the way to Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Even after Bonnie moves through, the CAMEX team will have plenty to keep it busy.

"Looks like a daisy chain of waves continuing from Africa," Wohlman continues "Might be a decent hurricane season! Long range probabilities bring a front into the east of the U.S. by Tuesday, but this all might be moot with Bonnie wandering around, but the mid-range forecast looks for another tropical storm in the Bahama region by the end of the period."


Note: More details are available in the NASA press release describing CAMEX-3. Check back as hurricane season progresses. We will post science updates as the campaign develops.

PIX: High resolution scans of 35mm camera photos from the CAMEX-3 campaign are available from Public Affairs Office at NASA headquarters. Please call the NASA Headquarters Photo Department at 202-358-1900, or contact Bill Ingalls at


CAMEX Series Headlines

August 12: Overview CAMEX story , describes the program in detail.
August 13: CAMEX maiden flight , for calibration of TRMM satellite instruments
August 14: CAMEX test flights , CAMEX flies over tropical storm weather in successful calibration run
August 18: CAMEX aircraft make second flight with TRMM , second calibration run for TRMM
August 20: CAMEX may get first chance at a tropical storm , later this week 
August 21: Here comes Bonnie! , CAMEX scheduled to fly over T.S. Bonnie (this story)
August 22: West by Northwest
, CAMEX team may have to evacuate to Georgia 
August 24: Eye-to-eye, and Bonnie winks, CAMEX team makes first flight through eye 
August 25: Snow in August, Bonnie surprises the hurricane team 
August 26: Camera of many colors Hurricane hunters using advanced scanner to peer into storms
August 28: Preparing for Danielle NASA team takes break as Bonnie fades away
August 31: Quite a Windfall Hurricane team completes first half of unique science campaign
September 2: Bonnie Cuts a Towering Figure Satellite radar shows mountainous cloud chimney
September 4: Hurricane team studies Earl Four aircraft probe storm
September 10: NASA team awaits next hurricane
September 16: Hurricane season passing its prime Thunderstorm studies continue as a new hurricane candidate wends its way from Africa.
September 18: Two new storms brewing for hurricane research team Scientists fly 4 out of 5 days, clear air sampled over the Bahamas, oceanic convection data collected east of Cape Canaveral
September 21:The last hurricane - CAMEX team wrapping up campaign with flights into Georges
September 23: Hurricane Georges puts on a light show - CAMEX team treated to purple sprites and weird lightning

NCAR has an extensive writeup on the GPS dropsondes used in CAMEX-3 and other atmospheric campaigns.

A new study - not related to CAMEX-3 - by the Arizona State University suggests a link between hurricanes in the northwest Atlantic and air pollution.

CAMEX-3 - the third Convection and Moisture Experiment - is an interagency project to measure hurricane dynamics at high altitude, a method never employed before over Atlantic storms. From this, scientists hope to understand better how hurricanes are powered and to improve the tools they use to predict hurricane intensity.

An overview story (Aug. 12, 1998) describes the program in detail. The study is part of NASA's Earth Science enterprise to better understand the total Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment.

Web Links
CAMEX-3 home page contains links to daily flight operations and instrument descriptions.
Lightning Imaging Sensor aboard the TRMM satellite observes lightning from above the clouds - and my lead to better warnings on the ground.
MACAWS uses the Doppler effect (red and blue shifts) to measure wind velocity.
SPARCLE is a Space Shuttle experiment set for 2001 to demonstrate laser wind measurement from space.


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More web links
  • More Space Science Headlines - NASA research on the web
  • The Marshall Newsroom - more information on this and other news from the Marshall Space Flight Center
  • NASA's Earth Science Enterprise Information on Earth Science missions, etc.
  • Global Hydrology and Climate Center studies the global water cycle and its effect on climate.
  • National Hurricane Center carries the latest tracking information on tropical storms and hurricanes. It also has lots of historical data and images, including hi-resolution copies of the pictures above of damage by Hurricane Andrew.
  • The Public Use of Remote Sensing Data at Goddard Space Flight Center has high-resolution images of Fran (including the original of the image used in this story), Andrew, and other hurricanes and of other events seen from space.