Hurricane Ian has caused major problems in the southwest of Florida with over 2 million homes left without power after the category 4 storm struck on Wednesday 28 September. With wind speeds of over 241 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) recorded, you might think taking to the skies was the last thing you’d want to be doing, but not so for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Hurricane Hunters.
The Hurricane Hunters are specially equipped aircraft that fly directly into the eye of storms. Essentially meteorological stations with wings, the information that the team can gather using these planes and some highly trained professionals helps forecasters make predictions and leads to a better understanding of these dangerous weather events.
Nick Underwood, an engineer for the NOAA Hurricane Hunters took to Twitter to share his experience of flying into the eye of Hurricane Ian. Hold onto your hats folks, it gets seriously bumpy.
Aboard trusty plane N42RF, nicknamed “Kermit”, Nick and the rest of the crew took to the sky to collect critical data on the storm. The WP-3D plane flies between 2,400 and 3,000 meters (8,000-10,000 feet) above the ocean. Collecting this vital information comes in many forms, and as well as using their instruments, the team also launch dropsondes into the storm. These are weather devices that are designed to be dropped out of the plane, they send data of the surrounding atmosphere back to the plane via radio transmission as they fall.
Nick’s incredible photos from inside the eye of the storm show the amount of lightning happening. This can also be seen in a satellite view which helps show the scale of Hurricane Ian.
If you’d like to get a sea level view of a category 4 storm this saildrone footage of Hurricane Fiona will make you feel seasick.