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USNA News Center

Naval Academy Midshipmen Collect Hurricane Florence Data

  POSTED ON: Friday, September 14, 2018 11:57 AM by Jennifer Erickson

ANNAPOLIS, Md.- Four midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy Oceanography Department recently flew with the U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53rd WRS) "Hurricane Hunters" through the eye of Category 4 Hurricane Florence.

Oceanography majors Midshipman 1/C (senior) Shannon McAllister, of Plantation, Florida, along with Midshipman 1/C Jake Drogowski, of Alanson, Michigan, Midshipman 2/C (junior) Grace Rovira, of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, and Midshipman 2/C Jordan Sun of Honolulu, Hawaii, under the leadership of Navy Capt. Beth Sanabia, Ph.D., of the USNA Oceanography Department, collected oceanic data from around the storm while the 53rd WRS crew gathered atmospheric data. Both the oceanic and atmospheric data contributed to Hurricane Florence’s track and intensity forecasts issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Hurricane Florence is expected to bring historic rainfall and life-threatening storm surge to the Carolinas over the weekend.

“We are so grateful for being able to give these midshipmen this valuable and memorable opportunity so early in their careers. We have worked with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron for nearly a decade and without them and the funding from the Office of Naval Research for this project, these experiences wouldn’t be possible,” Said Sanabia.

Jordan Sun
Midshipman 2/C (junior) Jordan Sun
processes data aboard flight.  Photo by
SrA Kristen Pittman, USAFR from 403rd Wing

The midshipmen deployed Airborne Expendable Bathythermographs (AXBTs), which are single-use, air-launched buoys that measure temperature in the upper several hundred meters of the ocean. The midshipmen also deployed ten air-launched autonomous micro-observer (ALAMO) floats. These floats, deployed in the predicated path of Hurricane Florence, submerge to a depth of 300 meters and then resurface every two hours to transmit data. The midshipmen process the ocean temperature data onboard the 53rd WRS's WC-130J aircraft and send it to the Naval Oceanographic Office and the National Data Buoy Center for assimilation into numerical forecast models and to solve research objectives funded by the Office of Naval Research.

The midshipmen were collecting data not only as part of their research coursework in the Oceanography Department, but as part of a larger joint-interagency effort to improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasts.