(This is a post from summer 2012. -mp)
An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft from Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss. headed to investigate the area of disturbed weather in the Gulf of Mexico Saturday afternoon.
An important tool for tropical forecasters is the “high-density” observation stream from the aircraft.
Along its entire course, instruments on board the aircraft detect air pressure, wind speed, and of course, the aircraft position.
As the plane nears the disturbance, it will begin to release dropsondes (expendable remote weather stations) to measure all the atmospheric conditions.
Using Google Earth, you can track all this data in near-real time, or simply watch a continuously updated view of the Hurricane Hunter aircraft position!
Step 1: Make sure you have Google Earth (a stand-alone program…. not Google Maps!).
Step 2: Go to this website. Then click on “Live Recon Data in Google Earth.”
Step 3: Clicking on that will either download a .kmz file automatically or it will prompt you to either open or save. If prompted, choose “Open.”
Otherwise, find where the file is saved and open it, or click on the file if it appears at the bottom of your browser as shown.
Step 4: Google Earth should automatically open when the .kmz file is opened. Choose the present mission at left by clicking on the radio button.
(Multiple missions may be available if multiple areas are being tracked, a high-altitude recon mission is ongoing, or when training is underway.)
Step 5: Google Earth will automatically zoom in and track the flight in progress. If you want to examine wind speed or other parameters recorded from the plane along the flight, click on the colorized wind barbs.
When dropsondes are released, you’ll see what appears to be a grey or black tube. Click on that for the dropsonde data.
Centers of circulation are also noted when pinpointed.