The sea surface directional wave spectrum was measured for the first time in all quadrants of a hurricane in open water using the NASA airborne scanning radar altimeter (SRA) carried aboard one of the NOAA WP-3D hurricane hunter aircraft at 1.5 km height. The SRA measures the energetic portion of the directional wave spectrum by generating a topographic map of the sea surface. At 8 Hz, the SRA sweeps a radar beam of 1 E half-power width (two-way) across the aircraft ground track over a swath equal to 0.8 of the aircraft height, simultaneously measuring the backscattered power at its 36 GHz (8.3 mm) operating frequency and the range to the sea surface at 64 positions. These slant ranges are multiplied by the cosine of the incidence angles to determine the vertical distances from the aircraft to the sea surface. Subtracting these distances from the aircraft height produces the sea surface elevation map. The sea surface topography is interpolated to a uniform grid, transformed by a two-dimensional FFT, and Doppler corrected. The open-ocean data were acquired on 24 August 1998 when hurricane Bonnie was east of the Bahamas and moving slowly to the north. Individual waves with heights up to 18 m were observed and the spatial variation of the wave field was dramatic. The dominant waves generally propagated at significant angles to the downwind direction. At some positions there were three different wave fields of comparable energy crossing each other. The NOAA aircraft spent over five hours within 180 km of the hurricane Bonnie eye, and made five eye penetrations. A 3-minute animation of the directional wave spectrum spatial variation over this period will be shown as well as summary plots of the wave field spatial variation. On 26 August 1998, the NOAA aircraft flew at 2.2 km height when hurricane Bonnie was making landfall near Wilmington, NC, documenting the directional wave spectrum in the region between Charleston, SC and Cape Hatteras, NC. The aircraft ground track included both segments along the shoreline and Pamlico Sound as well as far offshore. An animation of the directional wave spectrum spatial variation at landfall will be presented and contrasted with the spatial variation when Bonnie was in the open ocean on 24 August 1998.
Meteorology and Climatology
54th Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference; 14-18 Feb. 2000; Houston, TX; United States