The Miami Herald > Weather >

Reconnaissance aircraft


Forecasters rely on data collected by three different aircraft to monitor a hurricane's intensity and motion. Two are highly specialized planes operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the third is operated by the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

WP-3D Orion

The most sophisticated plane, it carries advanced instruments to measure surface wind speed. The NOAA aircraft flies into the eye of a hurricane at 10,000 feet, releasing dropwindsondes.


Up to 50 per mission are released, and they transmit data by radio. The top is a parachute to stabilize decent, and the bottom is a humidity sensor. They are about 16 in. long.

Gulfstream IV-SP

This unique NOAA aircraft flies at high altitudes in the environment around a hurricane. The jet uses dropwindsondes to measure the steering currents that determine a storm's direction.

C-130 Hercules

Operated by the Air Force Reserve, it penetrates the storm's eye wall like NOAA's Orion, following an "alpha" flight path. By releasing dropwindsondes, it records a hurricane's most violent winds near the ocean surface.

Read more Hurricanes stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category