High-flying researchers from NASA’s Convection and Moisture Experiment
(CAMEX) have taken a look inside Tropical Storm Chantal, a storm that
continues to follow the track of forecast models, but has not intensified as
previously predicted.

Two specially equipped NASA research aircraft, an ER-2 and a DC-8, took off
from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., at 2:05 p.m. EDT Monday on an
eight-hour mission to collect high-altitude information on Tropical Storm

“Chantal provides us a great example of why we need to continue research of
severe storms,” said CAMEX researcher Dr. Ed Zipser of the University of
Utah, Salt Lake. “At several points during its journey west across the
Caribbean Chantal indicated that it was beginning to follow the forecast
models, then abruptly violated expected behavior. Chantal’s behavior is
providing us with an opportunity to learn more about the dynamics of severe
tropical storms and hurricanes.”

The aircraft flew from Jacksonville south to Orlando then west and south
across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Channel east of Mexico. The flight
path then transited the Yucatan Channel south to intersect Tropical Storm
Chantal east of Belize.

The DC-8 research aircraft, a converted commercial jetliner, flew an
inverted figure four at 35,000 to 40,000 feet, while the ER-2 flew a similar
pattern above the storm at 65,000 feet. The overlapping patterns, or
“stacked formation,” over Chantal samples the storm at various altitudes
permitting scientist to study the storm from top to bottom.

On Sunday the NASA team flew the first flights of the Aerosonde Unpiloted
Aerial Vehicle, a small aircraft that will fly into the boundary area of
hurricanes. No problems were found during the first flight. NASA hopes to
send the Aerosondes in the violent base of the storm, where no piloted
vehicle dares to go.

The CAMEX mission unites researchers from 10 universities, five NASA centers
and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The study
is part of NASA’s Earth Science enterprise to better understand the total
Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the
global environment