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NASA’s GRIP Project: Leading Edge Research on Hurricanes

By Penny Paugh

In August 2010, NASA launched the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) Earth science field experiment to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes. NASA hopes forecasters will assimilate GRIP data into their prediction models to improve forecasts and provide earlier warning for communities in a burgeoning hurricane’s path.

The experiment capitalizes on a number of ground networks, and uses airborne science labs, as well as space-based equipment. The project taps the spaceborne and airborne observational capabilities of NASA to advance research in this field. NASA recently launched several new satellites; high-altitude unmanned airborne system for hurricane surveillance recently were developed; and new remote sensing technologies offer research tools that need to be explored and validated. Of great importance are new remote sensing instruments for wind and temperature that can lead to improved characterization of storm structure and environment.  Altogether, the mission is using several NASA satellites, three aircraft and 14 different aircraft instruments.

Most recently, between September 12th and 25th, two NASA environmental research aircraft – a DC-8 flying science laboratory and an unmanned long-endurance Global Hawk – performed coordinated science flights over the AL-92 tropical disturbance southeast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. The Global Hawk, operated remotely from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, collected data of the storm system. All nine instruments installed on the DC-8 collected data during its flight over the storm system, and launched dropsondes to aid the other instruments in gauging wind profiles and moisture content.

Earlier in September, the two aircraft performed flights and collected data over Hurricane Earl.


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