Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3)

HS3 banner

AV-1 Global Hawk aircraft arriving at WFF
Photo by NASA
The Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) was a NASA airborne field campaign focused on better understanding the physical processes that control hurricane intensity change. HS3 helped to answer questions related to the roles of environmental conditions and internal storm structures to storm intensification. Due to the nature of the questions that HS3 mission addressed, it involved a variety of in-situ, satellite observations, airborne data, meteorological analyses, and simulation data. HS3 was a 5-year mission with three observation years (2012, 2013, 2014). The primary aircraft used in the campaign were two high altitude, long-duration flight unmanned airborne systems (UAS).  Each Global Hawk UAS was outfitted with instruments capable of measuring various storm and environmental parameters.
This image shows the flight tracks of the NASA GlobalHawk (GH) unmanned aircrafts flown during the NASA Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) field campaign (2012,2013,2014).
Extensive coverage of the Atlantic Ocean could not have been done with conventional aircraft.
Discovering answers to the following science questions was the primary project goal:
For the Environment:

1) What impact does the Saharan air layer (SAL) have on intensity change?
2) How do storms interact with shear produced by large-scale wind systems?
3) How does the outflow layer interact with the environment?

For the Storm Inner core:

1) What is the role of deep convective towers (bursts) in intensity change? Are they critical to intensification?
2) What changes in storm structure occur prior to and during genesis and rapid intensification?
3) How do intrusions of dry air impact intensity change?


HS3 outfitted two Global Hawk unmanned aircrafts to perform in two separate environments: Near the storm and over the storm. The instruments on each of the Global Hawk aircraft are listed below.
The BAMS HS3 Publication by Braun et al (2016) contains a detailed listing of the instruments and flights operated during the campaign.
  Environment Payload Over-storm Payload
High-resolution Interferometer Sounder
High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Airborne Profiler
Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System
Hurricane Imaging Radiometer
Cloud Physics Lidar
High-Altitude MMIC Sounding Radiometer


Five of the above instruments were mounted on one or the other of the two Global Hawk UAS aircraft, and each measured the atmosphere from flight altitude. The sixth, the Automated Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS) on the environment Global Hawk, is unique in that it contained hardware mounted on the aircraft for automated release of dropsondes which measured the atmospheric characteristics of temperature, pressure, humidity and winds during their descent. Up to 88 dropsondes could be released on each Global Hawk flight. These dropsonde data were essential for validation activities.

The HS3 field campaign dataset also consisted of various support data collected during the campaign observation periods, including:
  • World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) lightning data for the observed storms
  • Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS) model data
  • NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) Dust Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT) data
  • Various satellite data obtained from the Naval Research Lab cropped to storm locations
  • Cloud top height, overshooting tops, and brightness temperatures from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS)

Aircraft navigation data, instrument reports and flight reports are included in the collection. These additional data contain satellite imagery, instrument retrieval plots, and maps of flight tracks and dropsonde locations.

A specialized data system was developed for HS3 that simplified access to the many heterogeneous data included in the campaign collection.  A tool, called FCX, was developed  for visual data exploration and was integrated into the data system catalog.  FCX was built to allow for visually augmenting airborne data with analyses and simulation data to address the important  science questions. The tool remains under development, however, users can see FCX capability in a NASA Webinar presented in 2017.

The HS3 data system architecture is shown below. Please click to view a larger version:


Get HS3 Datasets:
NASA's GHRC DAAC Data Search

HS3 Collection DOI:

NASA Webinars:
Atmospheric Event based Research using NASA GHRC Tools and Services
Earthdata Webinar: Explore, Discover and Use Field Campaign & Related Data

HS3 Mission Movie:
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Mission



Have you used our data? Register for updates