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Unlock the Mystery of Hurricane Hunters: Exploring Why They Fly Strange Patterns into Storms

Hurricane Hunters—aircraft teams that fly and monitor weather systems that could become hurricanes—are essential to providing vital predictions to people living in hurricane-prone areas. What’s more—they do it in a very unusual way.

Instead of flying straight into a storm, Hurricane Hunters fly in a “comb” or “spiderweb” pattern, spiraling in at different levels and directions. This allows them to view the storm from multiple angles and collect more detailed data about the storm’s progress.

The importance of these patterns can’t be overstated in aiding hurricane forecasts. The data collected by Hurricane Hunters allows meteorologists to better predict wind speeds, pressure systems, and how much rain is likely to fall.

This data helps inform hurricane warnings and evacuation decisions. That’s why it’s crucial to send a specialized aircraft team into the eye of the storm. The information they collect on the way in can be used more accurately than watched or recorded satellite images.

As his pilots darted in and out of the hurricane eye in a “14-spoke bicycle wheel” pattern, the leader of the Hurricane Hunter team, LCol Rocky de Noyer, understood the power and resilience of the storm from an entirely different perspective.

The purposeful flight pattern of the Hurricane Hunters allows them to view the storm at multiple angles to acquire distinctive readings. By flying at different altitudes, the pilots can measure how quickly wind speed increases as they fly closer to the eye of the storm—allowing meteorologists to estimate the storm’s intensity.

Instrument readings like wind speed and barometric pressure also help meteorologists better gauge the storm’s rain total as well as document the precipitation’s area of impact.

The intensely detailed data collected by the trained teams of Hurricane Hunters, is invaluable in the effort to protect communities from the impact of a storm.

Thanks to their unique flight patterns, Hurricane Hunters are able to offer invaluable insight into the structure and strength of a storm. Without them—meteorologists would be flying blind.

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