Two teams provide the eyes and tools for hurricane forecasters in the U.S.
One team is the NOAA Hurricane Hunters and their P3-Orion aircraft.
Another team is the Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squad and their massive WC-130J Hercules airplane.
It’s routine for these two groups to put their lives at risk to fly into hurricanes.
Both organizations have numerous sets of rotating crews, and each crew is allowed to fly up to 16 hour missions for non-stop 24 hour surveillance.
They fly “alpha patterns” within the tropical systems in order to sample the outer rain bands as well as the very center of the storm.
During the alpha pattern, the hurricane hunters release an instrument pack, known as a dropsonde.
The dropsonde falls from the top of the storm to the ground, measuring the atmosphere along the way.
The dropsonde contains a thermometer to measure temperature; anemometer for measuring wind speed as well as direction; a hygrometer for measuring the humidity within the storm; a barometer for measuring the atmospheric pressure -- the lower the number, the stronger the storm; a gps receiver, radio transmitter, and microprocessor help send the data back to research scientists, and a parachute allows the dropsonde to safely fall back to the ground.
The data is sent to the National Hurricane Center and other research organizations.
Meteorologists analyze the current conditions for storm status updates, and the data is ingested into forecast models that help create the forecast path you see in weather updates.
Over water, both NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly into the core of tropical systems like Dorian to obtain critical -- and potentially life-saving -- data at the heart of the storm.