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NOAA Hurricane Hunters fly north for the winter...for science

When hurricane season concludes, some hurricane hunters fly north for the winter. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Reserve Hurricane Hunters swapped their summer mission for a winter project from January to March 2020. Two types of aircraft, NOAA's Gulfstream IV-SP (G-IV) and the USAFs Reserve's WC-130J, flew over the Pacific Ocean to gather data on winter storms and regions known as "atmospheric rivers." These long, narrow regions operate like rivers in the sky, transporting water vapor outside of the tropics, in an amount roughly equivalent to the average flow of water of the Mississippi River. When these atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow and have a big effect on precipitation totals along the West Coast. Working in partnership with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, NOAA’s G-IV and its crew of NOAA Corps pilots and civilian flight directors, researchers, technicians and engineers completed 13 missions, deploying over 400 expendable probes called "dropsondes" and logging over 48,000 miles during the 2020 study season. The data gathered during these missions helps forecasters predict precipitation totals and regional water managers make important decisions to manage water availability year-round. Another NOAA Hurricane Hunter team also flew north—to Ireland—this winter to support a weather satellite validation project known as "Ocean Winds."