Hurricane Hunters fly Atlantic winter storm

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Pritchett
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs
Hurricane Hunters from here flew toward an impending winter storm Feb. 13. Forecasters expected more snow for the northeastern seaboard the next day.

Better known for pinpointing tropical storms and hurricanes, Air Force Reserve Command's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron WC-130J aircraft also track winter storms in support of the National Weather Service from Dec. 1 to April 30.

Information collected by the Hurricane Hunters is checked onboard the aircraft and then relayed by satellite to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Service supercomputer. This information helps "fill in the blanks" or bolster the data in computer climate models that forecast storms and precipitation for the entire United States

"The goal is to make a good forecast so that cities can be prepared with snowplows and other snow removal and mitigation equipment to diminish the impact of a winter storm on a city," said Lt. Col. Roy Deatherage, an aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

"If they are better prepared, like we've seen with several cities already this year, they can recover more quickly," he said. "That can be crucial for residents living in harm's way. These forecasts provide people in the path of the storms with warnings that can save lives."

The colonel said information collected by the WC-130J aircraft and NOAA aircraft on average reduces errors in forecasting by 10 to 20 percent.

"As a result, numerical forecast guidance issued 48 hours prior to the events becomes as accurate as 36-hour lead time forecasts," he said.

Winter missions require crews to fly at higher altitudes than they normally fly in tropical weather systems, above 30,000 feet. The squadron's new WC-130J is an improvement over the previous WC-130H in that it can fly much higher, allowing for collection of more data and thereby improving the forecast models even more than in the past.

In addition to these missions, two squadron WC-130J aircraft, crews and support people left Keesler AFB Feb. 12 for Anchorage, Alaska, to track Pacific winter storms for a month.

(Courtesy of Air Force Reserve Command News Service)