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Hurricane Dorian

Midshipmen Fly Through Eye of Hurricane Dorian for Research

  POSTED ON: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 8:09 AM by

Three midshipmen and one instructor from the U.S. Naval Academy Oceanography Department spent the Labor Day weekend flying seven missions with the U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53rd WRS) "Hurricane Hunters" through Hurricane Dorian, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.

The Naval Academy team included MIDN 1st class Julia VonFecht, MIDN 1st class Jordan Sun, MIDN 1st class Hunter McAlister and CAPT Beth Sanabia of the USNA Oceanography Department.  They were joined by Ensign Casey Densmore, Naval Academy Class of 2018 USNA, who is currently a student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program and two scientists from the Naval Oceanographic Office.


Eye of Hurrican Dorian 

The mids were split into teams and integrated into the Hurricane Hunter crews who flew through the eye of the the Category-5 storm multiple times during each 10-12 hour mission.  The data they collected was not only as part of their research coursework in the Oceanography Department, but as part of a larger joint-interagency effort combining the Naval Academy’s oceanographic data with Air Force’s atmospheric data collection effort in order to improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasts.

MIDN Sun, McAlister, and VonFecht  launched more than 100 Airborne eXpendable BathyThermographs (AXBTs) into the ocean below the storm over their 5-day effort.  The instruments measure temperature in the upper several hundred meters of the ocean help increase the accuracy of air-ocean coupled forecast models such as the ECMWF European model and the Navy’s Coupled COAMPS-TC model. The midshipmen will also use the data they collected as part of their senior research project.

The midshipmen serve as mission specialists, contributing to the scientific effort on each flight.  As part of their job, they process and quality control the ocean temperature data received onboard the 53rd WRS's WC-130J aircraft from the floats and send those observations 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.

Category: Press Releases, Research, General Interest, People, Academics