Welcome to CARCAH, the Chief Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination All Hurricanes.
When a hurricane forecaster needs an airplane to investigate a storm, we arrange to get it there, collect the data, quality control it and get it into the hands of those who need it. Missions usually last at least 10 hours to allow the aircraft to penetrate the storm center three or four times.
We have 13 aircraft at our disposal. This includes ten WC-130s of the Air Force Reserve located at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi,
The other three aircraft come from NOAA.s Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, including two P-3s used for research and to fill in operationally when the Air Force is over tasked, and the NOAA G-IV, which flies around the entire storm from altitudes up to 45,000 feet. A series of dropsondes is released from the aircraft to sample the atmosphere in and around the storm.
Once the data is quality controlled, the most important information goes straight to the hurricane forecaster, while other data is plotted to provide the forecaster with a visual representation of what is occurring in the storm. All data is released to the public, and is also fed into computers in Washington DC to help forecasters with their track forecasts.
There is no off season for the aircraft. The Air Force Reserves fly to train throughout the year and NOAA does other research missions. All of the airplanes fly into winter storms along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to aid forecasters with their snowfall predictions.