A brilliant rainbow paced alongside our WC-130 as we sliced through the mist. Rainshowers dotted the seascape as we investigated a small tropical depression off the Atlantic coast of Florida in early August. This storm formed about 400 miles east of Florida on Aug 8th, and came within 70 miles of Cape Canaveral before it turned away and dissipated on the 11th.
Our flights into developing tropical cyclones are flown very low, sometimes as low as 500 feet above the sea surface. On this flight, we found a sharp, 7-millibar drop in pressure at the center, where the winds crisply changed direction--a clearly defined tropical cyclone.
|Tropical sunshine floods the flight deck, turning it into a sauna. We'll drink a lot of water on this flight to stay hydrated. In the hot seat, Aircraft Commander Mark guards the throttles, ready to respond in an instant if we encounter a sudden windshear from the showers and thunderstorms which tower around the plane.
|Weather officer Eric picks off wind direction and speed by spotting wave crests and patches of sea foam as the ocean rolls rapidly under the aircraft. This is an exciting part-time job for our reservists; Eric is one of three National Weather Service meteorologists flying with our squadron, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge.
|Six crewmembers work as a team on these flights. Dropsonde operator Ed has a dual role of a "loadmaster", keeping a watchful eye on all the aircraft systems in the main part of the plane (cargo compartment). He also talks the pilot through the backing of the plane when we are leaving our parking spot (right).
|Flight Engineer Gary has one of the best seats in the house, in the center of the flight deck. From this perch, he surveys all the engine instruments and the health of the plane, and keeps track of how much fuel we have left on these long missions.
|Flight meteorologist Michelle mapped out the winds around the tropical wave, and determined the winds were not blowing in a counterclockwise circle near the surface. Not a tropical depression! We finished with was our third and final survey of TD#4.