Paper on turbulence near the ocean surface in Hurricane Rita published in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

Summary:Knowing what is happening in the boundary layer of a hurricane (the area from the ocean surface up to about 1 km height) is very important for making accurate forecasts of how strong the hurricane will get. But measuring temperature, moisture, and wind so close to the ocean surface is dangerous and difficult. In the past, we have relied on instruments dropped from aircraft, but they can only measure in their exact location and are expensive. Now, Doppler radar data from the Imaging Wind and Rain Airborne Profiler (IWRAP) can capture the nearly complete structure of the boundary layer. These data are now collected each year from the NOAA P3 aircraft and can provide information on very small-scale features near the ocean surface that are important for understanding the science of hurricanes.


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Important Conclusions:

  1. New ways to calculate wind measurements from the IWRAP are very accurate, providing a critical dataset for the hurricane researchers.
  2. Rita contained thin, small-scale features that transport high wind speed up instead of down, and outward away from the storm center. This might help explain how second eyewalls form and move inward, what we call the eyewall replacement cycle.
  3. The data may be helpful in understanding and warning for extreme winds near the surface that can cause damage to property during hurricane landfalls
  4. The IWRAP data could be useful for forecasts of hurricane intensity and may help scientists understand the complex boundary layer .

Read the paper at