As Tropical Storm Earl grew into Hurricane Earl this past weekend, NASA had a plan: Fly a plane into it. A DC-8 aircraft, used for NASA’s new Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) project, darted around the storm to trace the movement of atmospheric aerosols–particles suspended in the air–and to drop weather sensors, giving NASA researchers data on how such storms form and strengthen.
NASA’s DC-8 aircraft left Fort Lauderdale at 10:05 a.m. EDT on Saturday heading for St. Croix for a multi-day deployment that targeted (at that time) Tropical Storm Earl…. On Sunday, August 29, the DC-8 completed an 8.5-hour science flight over (then) Hurricane Earl west of St. Croix. The research aircraft flew at altitudes of 33,000 feet and 37,000 feet and descended to 7,000 feet northwest of the storm area to collect measurements of atmospheric aerosols. The flight originated in St. Croix but diverted to land in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., due to the degrading weather forecast for St. Croix associated with the approaching hurricane. [NASA]