Home News ‘Roller coaster in a car wash’: Why scientists flew into Hurricane Beryl

‘Roller coaster in a car wash’: Why scientists flew into Hurricane Beryl


Hurricane Beryl Destroyed Island Arrived in Grenada on Tuesday and is now flying to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Breaking records It was the first Atlantic basin hurricane ever to reach Category 4 and 5 intensity. 160 mph It was recorded on Monday.

“Given the timing, location and intensity of Hurricane Beryl, there are a lot of adjectives to describe it,” said Jonathan Zavislak, a meteorologist and flight commander with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dr. Zavislak is a hurricane hunter, a title shared by about 30 to 40 scientists, data processors and pilots in Lakeland, Fla., who fly into hurricanes in three planes nicknamed Gonzo, Kermit and Miss Piggy. Kermit and Miss Piggy have Doppler radars on their bellies and tails that allow scientists to create 3-D images of storms.

Dr. Zavislak and his team have spent the past three days aboard the Kermit from St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, flying through the eyewall of Hurricane Beryl. In a Category 4 or 5 storm like Beryl, the eyewall (the circle of thunderstorms, heavy rain and dangerous winds around the center of the storm) can be very loud and bumpy.

“It’s like riding a roller coaster at a car wash, except you don’t know when the ups and downs are going to happen or where the next turn is going to be,” Dr. Zavislak said Tuesday as he prepared for the third Beryl reconnaissance flight.

But the eye of the storm is calm. During daytime flights, Dr. Zavislak can look out the bubble window behind the cockpit and see a bowl of calm clouds and a clear blue sky above.

His job was to navigate the chaos, finding a flight path for Kermit that would allow him to fly at an altitude of 8,000 to 10,000 feet while maintaining a precise 210 knots airspeed and flying the aircraft directly into the wind so it wouldn’t be pushed around.

The goal of the flights is to provide better data for better response to emergencies, especially in the fast-changing world of hurricanes, said Jonathan Shannon, a spokesman for NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center.

Since Dr. Zavislak’s first flight on Sunday, Hurricane Beryl has experienced rapid intensification, meaning its winds have increased by 35 mph or more in 24 hours. Part of the change comes from an eyewall replacement cycle, which Dr. Zavislak calls the “ice skater effect”: The storm contracts like a figure skater tightens his arms as he spins. The storm absorbs energy from the warm ocean water, replaces the old eye with a new one, and reorganizes its outer wall.

As Earth’s atmosphere warms, more and more storms are experiencing this rapid intensification. A recent study shows that rapid intensification now Twice as likely Atlantic hurricanes are at least partly caused by climate change caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

Hosmey Lopez, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, said Beryl’s emergence was a disastrous start to the agency’s “most optimistic” forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season. An above-normal hurricane season Of those, there are four to seven severe storms with winds exceeding 111 mph.

This forecast is based on Changes in the El Niño-Southern OscillationIt’s a natural climate pattern associated with warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is transitioning from a neutral state to a La Nina state. The calm conditions produced by La Nina, combined with unusually warm ocean temperatures, increase the likelihood of hurricane formation in the Atlantic.

Hurricanes stir up the ocean surface as they move. They stir up cooler water from the deep ocean, which can dilute the storm’s energy, just like stirring a cup of coffee to cool it. But as sea surface temperatures rise abnormally, Breaking records Temperatures deeper down have also been above normal for more than a year.

“In this case, the coffee cup is very high up, so it’s hard to mix the cold water from below, even if the winds are strong,” Dr. Lopez said. Warmer temperatures deeper allow the storm to draw more energy from the ocean, he said.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with June and July traditionally quiet and August becoming more active. Hurricane Beryl beat the previous record for the earliest Category 5 hurricane, Emily, in 2005, by about two weeks.

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