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Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code

Amy Cherrix
HMH Books for Young Readers
80 pp.
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Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma showed just how much destruction can arise when a category 4 or 5 storm makes landfall. But even a category 1 storm can be devastating, as hurricane Sandy showed us 5 years ago when the tropical storm combined with a winter storm, and the raging flood waters were exacerbated by the high tides caused by a full Moon.

In contrast to a weather forecast, trying to predict the formation and path of a hurricane involves weather systems that are much larger and more energetic and can bring death and destruction over hundreds of miles. Further, an incorrect forecast that causes people to evacuate for “no good reason” may lead them to ignore future warnings.

In Eye of the Storm, Amy Cherrix brings together the recent history, science, and politics of hurricanes as a framework for presenting studies undertaken by NASA to study the formation and development of tropical cyclones, the general term used for any hurricane, typhoon, cyclone, tropical storm, or tropical depression.

Over the course of three successive summers, scientists and pilots at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility had the chance to use a repurposed Air Force Global Hawk drone to study potential hurricanes up close. The focus of the narrative is the summer of 2014 and the last remaining chances to try to study the origins of a tropical storm and its potential growth into a hurricane. Cherrix profiles the pilots and scientists who worked on or supported the mission, as well as the tools that were custom built to study the heart of a storm, to measure temperature, pressure, wind velocity, and the chemical profile of particles trapped in the wind.

There is a whirlwind of information in this book—perhaps too much at times—but whether your interest is in recent hurricanes or how we might come to predict future ones, there is a lot to be learned from the stories Cherrix tells.