Scientists Discuss Early Results of RAINEX Hurricane Intensity Project
Flights into storms' eyewalls and rainbands help to better forecast hurricane intensity
Scientists flew into the eyes of Hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia and Rita last summer, as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project called RAINEX, the Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment.
Scientists Robert Houze of the University of Washington and Shuyi Chen of the University of Miami will discuss early results from RAINEX, including findings that concentrated pockets of fast-rotating air within a hurricane's eyewall and rainbands feed the storm and strengthen its winds.
Their measurements of a hurricane's eyewall and outer rainbands have led to new insights on improving high-resolution modeling of hurricanes, and making better forecasts of how quickly a hurricane's intensity may change.
RAINEX used three Doppler radar-equipped aircraft, aided by high-resolution numerical modeling. The experiment was the first time aircraft flights into a hurricane were directed from crews on the ground in real time.
The storms investigated were in all stages of development, from tropical depression to a category 5 hurricane. Observations of Hurricane Ophelia provided a first-ever look at what scientists call the "convective burst phenomenon" that marks the initial stages of a hurricane's formation. The researchers flew into Hurricane Rita during what's known as an eyewall replacement cycle, which is key to understanding the interaction of eyewalls and rainbands and the relationship of those interactions to rapid storm intensity changes.
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