An Unscheduled Opening Of A Different Kind.

Arthur 1
Satellite Image Tropical Storm Arthur 5.17.20 | Image by

With all of the complications to our daily lives during the COVID-19 Pandemic we have been given many rules to follow. The governors of each state are in charge of setting the timing for businesses to open up again. Some business owners have ignored the rules and opened up earlier than allowed disregarding the order to stay closed.

Leaving the pandemic topic there is another rule that has been broken, but this one was breached by Mother Nature. There are seasons for various types of weather and weather patterns. The Tropical Cyclone season is one of them. The Atlantic-Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico season officially begins on June first. Once again that rule has been broken with the arrival of Arthur.

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Projected Wind Field Tropical Cyclone Arthur | Image by National Hurricane Center Tropical Prediction Center

It began as Tropical Depression number 1 on May 16th, 2020. The first report was issued by the National Weather Service’s Tropical Prediction Center at 2:00 pm May 16th. The storm was located at 28.4 N/78.6 W which is 125 miles East of Melbourne, Florida with highest sustained winds of 35 miles per hour and was moving to the N-NE at 13 miles per hour.

Arthur 1
Satellite Image Tropical Storm Arthur 5.17.20 | Image by

Tropical Storm Arthur was officially given a name on the 8:00 pm report of May 16th when it was located at 29.44 N/77.7 W with highest sustained winds at 40 mph and moving N-NE at 13 miles per hour. By the May 17th 2:00 pm report Arthur’s winds increased to 45 miles per hour and the N-NE movement continued.

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Tropical Storm Arthur 5.18.20 | Image by WPLG

The storm grew to it’s closest point to land on May 18th and had highest sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, however, by 8:00 am on May 19th the storm became a Post-Tropical Cyclone, in spite of it’s 60 miles per hour winds, and continued moving away from the east coast of the Untied States. That was the last report given on Arthur.

Last Arthur
Last Position Report For Post Tropical Cyclone Arthur | Image by National Hurricane Center Tropical Prediction Center

How is the information gathered to tell us where these storms are, how strong they are, and where they are going? We know that we can use radar to see where a tropical storm or hurricane is located when they are close to land and satellite imagery lets you lookout over the oceans. The question is how do they get the data like sustained wind speeds around the eye of the storm and farther away or the barometric pressure to see if the storm is getting stronger or weaker?

WC-130J Aircraft
WC-130J US Air Force Hurricane Aircraft | Photo by

You may have heard of the Hurricane Hunters who fly over and around these massive storms to gather the data necessary to follow these storms and figure out where they are going to go. The storm tracking missions are preformed by The United States Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hurricane Hunters. The Air Force crews the WC-130J aircraft for their missions while the NOAA crews fly the WP-3d Orion aircraft for their work.

View Above A Hurricane
A Hurricane As Seen From WC-130J Aircraft | Photo by US Air Force through

At an American Meteorological Society meeting I attended in Memphis, TN in the 1980s our group got a tour of one of those C-130s. It was just the empty plane without all of their equipment in it because the plane they were supposed to show us got called out for a hurricane reconnaissance flight the day before our tour.

WP-3D Orion

Why do they use the older 4-propeller driven planes instead of the newer, sleeker, and faster jet aircraft available today? There are two main reasons. The first is that the propeller driven planes are tougher and more stable in the high winds and heavy rains that they have to fly through. Secondly they need to be able to fly at a slower speed to be able to get the necessary data.

Dropsonde Equipment Package | Photo by

They use a dropsonde which is also called a sonde. It is a package of equipment that measures the barometric pressure, temperature, etc. above and in the storm after it is dropped from the airplane. It has a parachute attached to slow it down as it passes through the various layers of the storm and even the eye of a hurricane. They have to make multiple passes through very turbulent air to drop them in specific locations. It is a dangerous job that is absolutely necessary to enable pinpointing where the storms are, how strong the winds are, and the direction in which they are going in order to plot where they will have an affect on landmasses and people.

Arthur didn’t set a record by being so early. The earliest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic was formed on January 3, 1938. Now what about the West Coast? The Eastern North Pacific Hurricane season officially began on May 15th with no activity yet, but we rarely are impacted by Pacific Tropical Cyclones here in the Pacific Northwest.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

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