US scientists chasing storms off Ireland

File Photo: © Pat Flynn 2017


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The crew of NOAA-42 returned to their base at Lakeland, Florida via Halifax in Canada.

A United States “hurricane hunter” aircraft and a team of storm chasers have set up camp in Ireland as they undertake weather reconnaissance missions over the North Atlantic.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Lockheed WP-3D Orion, known as “Kermit”, arrived in Ireland from Florida via Canada and will based at Shannon Airport for the month of February.

This is the second year the project has operated out of Shannon having previously been based in Nova Scotia, Canada. The aircraft has already undertaken a number of missions since arriving in Ireland.

NOAA spokesman David Hall said: “NOAA has deployed one of the agency’s two Lockheed WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft to Shannon, Ireland to support an ongoing NOAA Satellite and Information Service project to measure ocean surface winds in winter storms over the North Atlantic.”

“The project helps NOAA calibrate and validate data collected by weather satellite sensors. The project also helps scientists and engineers improve the quality and consistency of satellite-based weather data. The aircraft is based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida,” he said.

*Video: A NOAA Hurricane Hunter flew into the eye of Storm Irma in September 2017

About two dozen personnel from NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center and NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service are supporting these flights while the Ireland-based portion of the project will run through February.

NOAA also confirmed: “Ireland was chosen because its location allows us to reach the larger winter storms in the North Atlantic with the P-3 aircraft. This is the second year that NOAA has conducted this project from Ireland. Previously, this project has operated out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.”

NOAA has two WP-3D Orions ‘hurricane hunter’ aircraft in its fleet and are named as Muppets characters Kermit and Miss Piggy. The planes have been developed from the old Lockheed L-188 Electra which first flew in the late 50s.

The aircraft is crewed by two pilots, a flight engineer and a navigator and also carries a flight director (meteorologist), up to three engineering/electronic specialists, radio/avionics specialist and as many as 12 Scientists.

Commending the work of the NOAA team, Andrew Murphy, Managing Director, Shannon Airport said: “We are delighted that Shannon was selected for this invaluable weather research project which could potential help save lives. We’ve had plenty of storms in recent times and it is wonderful to think that they can be harnessed to help inform of dangerous weather conditions. I would like to commend the work of these brave scientists and engineers who literally put themselves in the eye of the storm to gather this valuable data.”

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