First NOAA flight to Cape Verde inaugurates hurricane research — Quartz Africa

Last month, in an effort to better understand how storms form, scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) flew their hurricane-fighter jet over Cape Verde for the very first time. .

The island nation off the West African coast is the source of a large majority of powerful storms that hit American cities during Atlantic hurricane seasons. But ‘hurricane chasers‘ that chase storms before they die out or fully form and make landfall had never been around to collect data, until now.

So, for four days until August 12, NOAA scientists flew their US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft more than 3,000 miles east, taking pressure and wind. “We kind of opened the door to try and do more science there,” says Jason Dunionsenior mission scientist, to CNN.

A taste of Saharan dust events

At least two of the five costliest hurricanes in US history – Harvey (which took forecasters by surprise) and Maria, both in 2017 – first formed as tropical waves off the coast of the United States. West African coasts. Hot, dry air from the Sahara Desert collides with cooler moist air from the Gulf of Guinea to form the storm’s initial energy.

During their trip to Cape Verde, Dunion’s nine-member team got a “breathtaking” view of dust waves forming from the ground in the Sahara. The experiment, which the crew hopes to get another glimpse of before this year’s hurricane season ends in November, could be invaluable for future hurricane research.

This year’s hurricane season got off to a slow start, in part because dry air from the Sahara Desert hovers over the ocean for an unusually long time. In Cape Verde, NOAA hurricane hunters only flew into a potential storm that did not become a tropical storm. To truly understand the region’s storms, scientists will need to find ways to get real-time data for longer periods to guide risk assessments.

Still, a first foray into the Portuguese-speaking archipelago appears to be a big first step for science towards preventing the devastation of annual hurricanes.

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