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Better Forecasting Can Reduce Hurricane Damage

A high-flying, converted corporate jet named "Gonzo" should help reduce hurricane losses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the Gulfstream jet tracks hurricanes from the top of the troposphere at about 45,000 feet where the plane's sophisticated equipment can obtain much more accurate information than at lower altitudes. Eight computer workstations in the plane provide "atmospheric soundings" from outside the aircraft that give a more accurate forecast of the storm track.

Insurers will benefit as NOAA's more accurate mapping of a hurricane's path gives communities more time to prepare which is the best way to keep losses to a minimum. Scientists aboard Gonzo use so-called "dropwindsondes" as "atmospheric profiling devices" to measure air pressure, humidity, temper-ature, wind velocity, and wind direction. The dropwindsondes are parachuted from the Gulfstream, descending at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 feet per minute. Continuous readouts of the data are processed by meteorologists in the aircraft and transmitted by satellite to the National Weather Service.