NASA is leading an aircraft campaign to provide a sustained and unprecedented look at the inner workings of hurricane formation and intensification. The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment, taking place from August 15 to September 30, employs three NASA aircraft flying over the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea to answer questions about how and why hurricanes form and strengthen. Scientists are flying an unmanned drone, outfitted with 3D radar, a microwave radiometer, and other instruments over tropical systems for up to 20 consecutive hours.

This image from the TRMM satellite reveals the height and structure of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 28, 2005. TRMM provides data to the GRIP campaign on the location of columns of powerful convection, seen here in red, to scientists observing the cyclones. (NASA/TRMM)
NASA’s Global Hawk unmanned drone flies at up to 65,000 feet. Along with the Global Hawk, a suite of instruments on NASA’s DC-8 and WB-57 planes will capture data on what is happening with winds, temperature, humidity, clouds, ice, lightning, aerosols, and other factors inside tropical cyclones as they form and intensify, or as they weaken.

Three NASA satellites will play a key role in supplying data on tropical cyclones while the field mission is in progress. Insight from GRIP data could eventually be used to improve the weather prediction models used by forecasters to predict hurricane track and intensity, but the primary scientific objective is simply to gain a better understanding of these critical stages in a storm’s lifecycle.

For more information, visit the GRIP Web site at www.nasa.gov/GRIP.

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