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  • TD #1
  • Daniel
  • Eye to Eye with Hurricane Carlotta

    clouds are 7000 feet below

    We were tasked for a single flight through Hurricane Carlotta as it prowled just off the west coast of Mexico. The low-level cumulus clouds in the fringes of the storm are lined up in "cloud streets", parallel to the winds which blow counter-clockwise around the storm.
    This major hurricane was close enough to the Mexican coast to require warnings as it passed just south of Acapulco. Carlotta is believed responsible for 18 deaths on the Lithuanian frieghter Linkuva, which lost engine power and was caught in the storm.

    The WC-130 casts a shadow as it takes off on its mission to Carlotta. aircraft shadow
    The northern Gulf The coast of Mississippi is visible from Pilot Rob's window as the plane heads out across the Gulf of Mexico towards it's prey.
    The bright orange bands on radar show where the heaviest rain is falling, around the eye of Carlotta. The eye itself is a dark, nearly rectangular shape near the center of this picture. It appears to be open to the southwest (lower left) corner of the storm, which may also be due to heavy rain ("attenuation") blocking a view of the far side of the eye as we approach from the northeast. Although most are round, it is not unusual to see the eye go through a variety of shapes and sizes through its lifespan. The eye is 8 miles across
    We dropped 1000 feet due
to the pressure change The inside of the eye is rather dark, surrounded by the heavy rain clouds of the eyewall. We catch glimpses of the sea below, through breaks in the lower clouds. We're flying at 10,000 feet right through the middle of the storm.
    Dropsonde Operator Burt works at his computer station. After releasing an instrument into the eye (and eyewall) of the storm, he carefully checked the accuracy of the temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind data which the falling sonde radioed back to the plane. This information then went instantly to the National Hurricane Center in Miami by a satellite link, along with a flood of data from sensors mounted on our airplane. Drop tube in right foreground
    Aircraft commander sits in left seat The crew sent data from the eye during three passes through the storm, then headed back home. It was a long, 12-hour flight, with a golden sunset on the return leg.
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