Doppler on Wheels Deployed at Hurricane Ike

September 18, 2008
In the name of science, this mobile Doppler on Wheels braved Ike's hurricane winds last week. Credit: Josh Wurman

(PhysOrg.com) -- The only scientific team to successfully brave Hurricane Ike's knock-down winds and swells in Galveston was the DOW, the Doppler on Wheels mobile weather radar operated by the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder, Colo.

"The DOW mission to Ike provided, for the first time, high-resolution radar data collected from the ground of the inside of a hurricane eye strengthening during landfall, and from a hurricane that directly impacted a large urban area," said scientist Josh Wurman of CWSR.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported DOW was deployed on a 35-foot-high overpass in Galveston during the passage of Ike.

"The mission will allow researchers to better understand how phenomena called fine-scale wind streaks and boundary layer rolls, discovered by the the DOW in 1996, affect hurricane evolution," said Steve Nelson, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences, which funds the DOW. "These rolls may be important in how efficiently heat is extracted from the ocean, and how strongly hurricane winds are slowed by surface friction."

The DOW collected data for 17 hours. The center of Ike's eye passed nearly directly over the DOW, allowing scientists to take measurements of the front and rear eyewalls, and of the inside of the eye.

Deployed with the DOW were two vehicles equipped with instruments to track winds and raindrop size distributions, and ten unmanned "pods," which measured winds at locations so close to the water that human observers could not safely remain in the vicinity.

The vehicles were deployed at raised locations near the ends of the Galveston Causeway.

The pods stood watch in lines on the end of the Galveston Sea Wall and the Texas City Sea Wall, with 500-meter-spacing so the passage of small-scale gusts could be measured.

The DOW observed several mesovortices--swirling winds--in Ike's eyewall, which intensified winds and rainfall as these mesovortices rotated around the eye.

"The mesovortices are likely associated with some of the worst localized wind damage caused by Ike," said Wurman.

"The understanding from the DOW project is essential to improving forecasts of hurricane intensity, path, and rainfall amounts," he said. "It will lead to new insights on the nature of near surface winds in hurricanes, the behavior of hurricane eyewalls and processes inside eyewalls, and processes in hurricane rainbands."

Provided by National Science Foundation

Explore further: Doppler on Wheels—the biggest 'dish' on the road!

Related Stories

Doppler on Wheels—the biggest 'dish' on the road!

May 19, 2015

For nearly a decade, with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Doppler on Wheels (DOW) has been doing its best work in dangerous weather, driving into the eye of the storm to gather scientific data about wind, ...

Scientists explore using trees to clean pollution (Update)

June 9, 2014

Before the sprawling Texas city of Houston and its suburbs were built, a dense forest naturally purified the coastal air along a stretch of the Gulf Coast that grew thick with pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees.

Rapid-Scanning Doppler on Wheels Keeps Pace with Twisters

June 1, 2005

A new Doppler radar instrument that can scan tornadoes every five to 10 seconds is prowling the Great Plains this spring in search of its first close-up twister. Newly enhanced for season-long thunderstorm tracking, the radar ...

Recommended for you

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.