Flying into the Eye of the Storm: NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters
- Tuesday, October 17, 2023
- 11:00am - 12:00pm Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
- This is an online event. Event URL will be sent via registration email.
Flying into the Eye of the Storm: NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters Online
Slicing through the eyewall of a hurricane, buffeted by howling winds, blinding rain, and violent updrafts and downdrafts before entering the relative calm of the storm’s eye, NOAA pilots, planes, and researchers fly into the world's worst weather.
Data collected by the agency's high-flying meteorological stations help forecasters make accurate predictions during a hurricane and help hurricane researchers better understand storm processes, improving their forecast models and directly contributing to the safety of people on the vulnerable Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Join us for the first presentation of the relaunched Around the Bureaus series featuring Lieutenant Commander Dean Legidakes, Deputy Chief of Staff for NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), who will speak about the exciting and important work done by pilots known as the Hurricane Hunters.
About Around the Bureaus: This series showcases the diverse work of Department of Commerce employees, breaking down silos and encourages cross-bureau collaboration. If you would like to participate in a future presentation, please reach out to the library for more information.
More Details: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) manages and operates NOAA's fleet of 15 research and survey ships and nine specialized environmental data-collecting aircraft. Comprised of civilians and officers of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, OMAO also manages the NOAA Diving Program, NOAA Small Boat Program, and NOAA Uncrewed Systems Operations Center. NOAA and OMAO are part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
NOAA pilots, planes, and researchers fly into the world's worst weather.
Data collected by the agency's high-flying meteorological stations help forecasters make accurate predictions during a hurricane and help hurricane researchers better understand storm processes, improving their forecast models.
Slicing through the eyewall of a hurricane, buffeted by howling winds, blinding rain, and violent updrafts and downdrafts before entering the relative calm of the storm’s eye, NOAA’s two Lockheed WP-3D Orion four-engine turboprop aircraft, affectionately nicknamed "Kermit" (N42RF) and "Miss Piggy" (N43RF), probe every wind and pressure change, repeating the often grueling experience again and again during an 8-10 hour mission.
Scientists aboard the aircraft deploy Global Positioning System (GPS) dropwindsondes as NOAA Corps officers pilot and navigate the P-3 through the hurricane. These instruments continuously transmit measurements of pressure, humidity, temperature, and wind direction and speed as they fall toward the sea, providing a detailed look at the structure of the storm and its intensity. Meanwhile, the P-3s' tail Doppler radar and lower fuselage radar systems scan the storm vertically and horizontally, giving scientists and forecasters a real-time look at the storm. The P-3s can also deploy probes called bathythermographs that measure the temperature of the sea.
Storm surge forecasts have benefited from adding NOAA-developed Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometers (SFMRs) to NOAA’s P-3s. SFMRs measure over-ocean wind speed and rain rate in hurricanes and tropical storms, critical indicators of potentially deadly storm surges. Surge is a major cause of hurricane-related deaths.
In addition to researching to help scientists better understand hurricanes and other kinds of tropical cyclones, NOAA's P-3s participate in storm reconnaissance missions when tasked to do so by the NOAA National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center. These missions primarily aim to locate the center of the storm and measure central pressure and surface winds around the eye. (The U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron also supports this mission with their WC-130J aircraft.) Information from research and reconnaissance flights directly contribute to the safety of people living along and visiting the vulnerable Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
NOAA P-3s also participate in national and international meteorological and oceanographic research programs. Recently, these aircraft have been used in significant studies on storms approaching the continents of Europe and North America to improve forecasts and study the effects of El Niño, atmospheric gases and aerosols over the North Atlantic, large-scale convective storm complexes in the Midwest, and winter storms battering U.S. Pacific coastal states.
About LCDR Legidakes: LCDR Dean Legidakes is a native of Pensacola, FL. He graduated from Jacksonville University in 2008 with a degree in Finance. Upon graduation, he was commissioned in the United States Navy and completed flight school in Pensacola, FL, and Corpus Christi, TX. He earned his Naval Aviator wings in May 2010.
After graduating from Fleet Replacement Squadron training at Patrol Squadron Thirty (VP) 30, Legidakes reported to VP-10 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, FL, in January 2011. While at VP-10, he completed numerous deployments and combat missions supporting Operations Martillo, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
In November 2018, he completed an Interservice Transfer to the NOAA Corps. Flying the WP-3D “Hurricane Hunter” Aircraft, LCDR Legidakes has flown four seasons into over 20 named hurricanes. He was an instructor in the WP-3D and a Hurricane Aircraft Commander. He has flown multiple projects in both light and heavy aircraft worldwide. In April 2022, LCDR Legidakes took over the OMAO Deputy Chief of Staff for RADM Nancy Hann in Silver Springs, MD, where he leads all OMAO Aviation Congressional Affairs, including the Aircraft Recapitalization Plan and C-130 Aircraft Acquisition.
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