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NASA to launch three aircraft to study tropical cyclones

07-08-2010 09:44 BJT

LOS ANGELES, July 7 (Xinhua) -- NASA said Wednesday it will launch three aircraft on August 15 to study tropical cyclones as part of the agency's first major U.S.-based hurricane field campaign since 2001.

During the mission, dubbed as Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, or GRIP, these aircraft will study the creation and rapid intensification of hurricanes, said a statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Loboratory (JPL).

Two of the aircraft will carry advanced instruments from the JPL, which is headquarted in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

"This is really going to be a game-changing hurricane experiment," said Ramesh Kakar, GRIP program scientist.

"For the first time, scientists will be able to study these storms and the conditions that produce them for up to 20 hours straight. GRIP will provide a sustained, continuous look at hurricane behavior at critical times during their formation and evolution."

Three NASA satellites will play a key role in supplying data about tropical cyclones during the field mission.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, or TRMM, managed by both NASA and Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency, will provide rainfall estimates and help pinpoint the locations of "hot towers" or powerhouse thunderstorms in tropical cyclones.

The CloudSat spacecraft, developed and managed by JPL, will provide cloud profiles of storms, which include altitude, temperatures and rainfall intensity.

Several instruments onboard NASA's Aqua satellite, including JPL's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), will provide infrared, visible and microwave data that reveal such factors as temperature, air pressure, precipitation, cloud ice content, convection and sea surface temperatures.

Scientists will use the data from this six-week field mission to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes.Mission scientists will also be looking at how storms strengthen, weaken and die.

GRIP mission planning is being coordinated with two separate hurricane airborne research campaigns that will be in the field at the same time. The National Science Foundation is sponsoring the PRE-Depression Investigation of Cloud-systems in the Tropics mission. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is conducting the Intensity Forecast Experiment 2010.

"It was a lot of hard work to assemble the science team and the payload for the three aircraft for GRIP," Kakar said.

"But now that the start of the field experiment is almost here, we can hardly contain our excitement."

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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