Successful air deployment of buoys with NRL partnership ahead of Hurricane Ian

On Monday, September 26th, all Task 3A teams (PI Thomson and PI Centurioni) of the NOPP Hurricane Coastal Impacts project mobilized to facilitate the airdrop of buoys in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Ian. The airdrop, which is the first of three planned for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, was conducted in partnership with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (US NRL) Scientific Development Squadron (VXS-1). The goal of the deployment was to create a real-time sensor network to monitor Ian’s location and intensity as it advanced towards Florida’s Gulf Coast.

A US NRL P-3 aircraft carrying members of Scientific Squadron VXS-1 and graduate student Jacob Davis departed Naval Air Station Patuxent in Maryland on Monday morning. Once over the Gulf, 10 Spotter buoys (Sofar Ocean), 5 microSWIFT buoys (UW-APL), and 5 A-size Directional Wave Spectra Drifters (Lagrangian Drifter Laboratory, Scripps) were deployed in a regional array designed to sample the different quadrants of Hurricane Ian, based on the most recent cone of uncertainty. The focus of the array was on Ian’s right front quadrant, which often has the largest waves due to wind orientation and propagation direction. The buoys were successfully airdropped from heights ranging between 300 and 5,000 feet at around 150mph.

A schematic of targeted buoy deployments. 20 buoys, each represented by a yellow dot, were airdropped in a regional array designed to sample the different quadrants of Hurricane Ian.

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