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NASA drone reaches two hurricanes in first mission


A Global Hawk drone equipped to gather a wealth of atmospheric data spent time last month flying over the Atlantic Ocean studying hurricanes. It is the first mission for NASA’s newest aircraft, which cruises at 60,000 feet and for up to 31 hours, much higher and longer than manned Hurricane Hunter missions. During its mission, the Global Hawk surveyed hurricanes Leslie and Nadine, which both remained at sea for their entire lives. NASA worked out agreements with about 50 countries so that its drone can fly above the Caribbean and all the way to Africa and back, potentially during a single flight. The Global Hawk will also be able to gather data about the Saharan Air Layer in the eastern Atlantic, masses of fine dust particles that may have an effect on hurricane formation and development. Scientists have conflicting data about the role of those dust particles, which at times seem to promote hurricane growth, but which at other times seem to keep storms from forming.