90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, August 26, 2011

A Hurricane Hunter’s View Of Irene

A view of the eye of Hurricane Irene taken from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft. (Courtesy of NOAA)

A view of the eye of Hurricane Irene taken from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Hurricane Irene focused her aim on the Eastern Seaboard Friday, threatening 65 million people from North Carolina to New England.

Paul Flaherty has already seen the massive storm up close.

Flaherty is a flight meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., and he recently flew with a crew of more than a dozen others into the eye of Hurricane Irene.

“People think it’s crazy being on an aircraft bouncing around,” he told Here & Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer.

“But I always liken it to– if you go to an amusement park, if you’re on a roller coaster you’re expecting to have that kind of ride. If you go on a Ferris wheel you’re not. We are expecting to be involved in a lot of movement on that aircraft so it doesn’t really bother us that much.”

Paul Flaherty, a hurricane hunter with the NOAA. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Paul Flaherty, a hurricane hunter with the NOAA. (Courtesy of NOAA)

The team uses two types of aircraft to collect data: The Gulfstream G-4, a jet that flies around and above the hurricane; and the Orion P-3, which is a propeller plane that flies directly into the storm.

“Our plane is just a speck in that storm,” he said .

“Sometimes it dawns on me it might be a little crazy what we’re doing, but I’ve seen the number of people we’ve been able to evacuate in storms, so I know we’re doing it for the right reasons,” he said.

Flaherty’s team gathers information that’s used to determine weather patterns and the need for evacuations. They learn about the wind from Doppler radar measured on a device that sits on the tail of the plane.

They also use a tube-like device called a “dropsonde” that’s dropped from the plane into the hurricane and sends back readings on temperature, pressure and humidity.

Guest:

  • Paul Flaherty, a “hurricane hunter” who recently flew into the eye of Irene. He’s a flight meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

We now have a digital bookshelf! Explore all our books coverage or browse by genre.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

January 22 Comment

The Playwright Behind ‘Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike’

Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning comedy is currently being performed in 27 regional theaters across the U.S.

January 22 25 Comments

EdX CEO Lays Out Disruptive Vision For Higher Ed

Anant Agarwal believes MOOCs — massive online courses — can be a disruptive force for good in higher education.

January 21 21 Comments

What Happens When Your Sibling Makes More Than You?

Sociologist Dalton Conley explains what it means for family dynamics when one sibling is significantly richer or poorer.

January 21 2 Comments

Obama’s Proposal On Inequality: Is It Enough?

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz offers his take on the president's plan and whether it goes too far or not far enough.