16 days ago
In November Mark Beaubien (’83) along with Todd Allen (’80) successfully tested a new automated dropsonde dispenser over the gulf of Mexico, from NASA Houston’s high altitude WB-57 research aircraft flying at a height of 60,000′. Yankee Environmental Systems, located in nearby Montague, developed the system to rapidly deploy a cloud of expendable weather sensor probes that measure the intensity of active hurricanes in real time. The system seeks to improve severe storm forecast accuracy and has been selected by NASA as a mission payload on its a high altitude Global Hawk science drone. A core science question NASA hopes the system will answer was initially posed by a third DA alum, MIT atmospheric science professor Kerry Emanuel (’73): What is the thermal (heat flux) and mechanical (wind/momentum) energy coupling between the bottom of the hurricane eye wall area and the ocean’s surface? That number has been elusive because it is so hard to access that active area, yet it may hold the key understanding how storms evolve or devolve over time. Stay tuned!