The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment is a NASA Earth science project to learn about storm changes.

The Global Hawk is an unmanned airplane that flies up to an altitude of 65,000 feet. It is one of 3 airplanes that is being used by NASA in the GRIP (Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes) mission in an effort to learn the processes of development and growth of tropical clouds. It uses a High-Altitude Monolithic microwave integrated Sounding Radiometer, HAMSR.

It is used in conjunction with a DC-8 that is equipped with the Airborne Precipitation Radar (APR-2) that detects ice in the clouds and measures the speed of air updrafts. A third aircraft, a WB-57, can fly about 65,000 feet high. It measures microwaves emitted from the ocean surface.

In addition, 3 NASA satellites are used. One helps us learn more about “hot towers” or powerhouse thunderstorms under the TRMM, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission . The second, CloudSat, provides cloud profiles of altitude, temperature, and rainfall intensity. The third is Aqua satellite that has an Atmosphere InfraRed Sounder, AIRS. This provides microwave data of temperature, pressure, cloud ice, and sea temperature.

Hopefully these data, combined other measurements from Air Force, NCAR, and NOAA aircraft will help connect the many pieces of the puzzle of why changes in strength of tropical storms and hurricanes is often so unpredictable. For now, it’s a “watch and wait” game as the remnants of last week’s Tropical Depression 5 have returned to the northern Gulf waters after making a loop inland over the weekend. Regaining Depression status is again limited because of upper level wind shear as it approaches the mouth of the Mississippi River. And this time around the shearing should still decrease as it approaches the Louisiana shoreline giving it a 50-50 chance of redevelopment.


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