For the last several years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has provided a “Hurricane Awareness Tour” to locations around the Atlantic Coast and Caribbean Islands, bringing meteorologists and hurricane hunter pilots and their aircraft to various locations ahead of hurricane season. Now, for the first time ever, the free event is headed to Hawaii.
On Saturday, June 1, from 10am-2pm, Honolulu will be hosting the first Pacific Hurricane Awareness Tour. Hosted at Castle & Cooke Aviation (155 Kapalula Place) at Honolulu International Airport, a NOAA G-IV Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be made available for public tours. Joining the aircraft and its crew will be local National Weather Service hurricane forecasters from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. This family-fun event will feature educational activities, giving guests the chance to learn about hurricane preparedness and recovery.
June 1 also marks the first day of not only the Atlantic Hurricane Season, but the Central Pacific Hurricane Season as well. Earlier this week, the Director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, Chris Brenchley, unveiled NOAA’s seasonal outlook for the basin that surrounds Hawaii. Unlike the Atlantic outlook which is calling for a near-normal season, the central Pacific outlook forecasts above-normal activity.
The 2018 Central Pacific Hurricane Season was especially busy, with storms Hector, Lane, and Olivia triggering storm warnings and bringing a variety of impacts to the Aloha State. During those storms, hurricane hunters from both NOAA and the Air Force Reserve were flying around the Pacific collecting valuable data for forecasts.
Tomorrow, meteorologists w/the Central Pacific Hurricane Center will be unveiling their outlook for the upcoming season that starts on June 1. We recently caught up with Hurricane Hunter @RyanRickert4 to chat about what they did around Hawaii for the ’18 hurricane season. #HIwx pic.twitter.com/QPSx9lXkxq
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) May 22, 2019
The 2018 season around Hawaii also helped make aviation history for the hurricane hunting program. When Hurricane Hector approached Hawaii, the first all-female crew was deployed. The G-IV jet was flown by Captain Kristie Twining and Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Waddington.
According to Brenchley, when multiple tropical cyclone threats exist in the country, resources from the Honolulu-based Central Pacific Hurricane Center collaborate and/or even swap/share staff with their counterparts at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) Director, Chris Brenchley, described to us today how his Honolulu team coordinates, collaborates, & even swaps staff with Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) to keep America #HurricaneStrong?@NWSHonolulu pic.twitter.com/W1WM2EeXeC
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) May 23, 2019
To “hunt” hurricanes, two types of aircraft are used: WC-130 turboprops and G-IV jets. For this first Hawaiian Hurricane Awareness Tour, only the G-IV will be present for tours.
The WC-130 highlights what is commonly known as the “Hurricane Hunter Aircraft” which is operated by the Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (WRS), the world’s only operational military weather reconnaissance unit. The WRS is based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. It is officially named a Lockheed WC-130 J aircraft and it’s sturdy design and large size allow it to fly directly into hurricanes at altitudes of 10,000 feet or lower. Interestingly, it is propeller driven which is an advantage when employing radiosondes and buoys used to gather data as relatively slow speeds of under 180 knots (207 mph) are needed to drop them.
The Gulfstream IV, also known as simply a G-IV jet, is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) It is a less rugged aircraft than the Lockheed WC-130 and is designed to cruise at altitudes of 40,000 feet or higher. Being a jet, it flies at much faster speeds than the WC-130 and both its high speed and altitude do not allow for radiosondes or buoys to be dropped.