(KGTV) - The Scripps Institution of Oceanography is partnering with Air Force and NOAA to collect data that they hope will help forecasters more accurately predict rain events.
"As a meteorologist, you either thinks it’s the craziest thing you could do or the coolest thing you can do since you're flying into a hurricane," said Major Ashley Lundry of the 53rd Weather Recon Squadron.
Lundry has been flying into hurricanes for the Air Force, but is will now being venturing into storms on the west coast to gather data on 'atmospheric rivers.'
Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of moisture that can deliver up to half of California’s annual water supply in a matter of days.
“They're really key to western water," said Dr. Marty Ralph, who is directing the mission for Scripps, "if we don’t get enough of atmospheric rivers it causes droughts, but if we ge too many, we'll see flooding.”
The U.S. Air Force Reserve “Hurricane Hunters” will station WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii and at Travis Air Force Base in Vacaville, Calif., and NOAA will station a Gulfstream IV (G-4) aircraft outside of Seattle, Wash.
The flights are intended to be scheduled on short notice based on evolving forecasts as atmospheric rivers develop.
During these flights, flight crew members will deploy dropsondes from the interior of the aircraft at selected locations in transects across atmospheric river storms.
The dropsondes carry instruments that measure water vapor content, wind speed and direction, and other variables. The data captured will be utilized to test new methods for improving the prediction of atmospheric rivers and their heavy precipitation on the U.S. West Coast.
These measurements will be used in the National Weather Service’s operational weather forecast models, as well as other major global modeling centers.