Categories: world

The asa of the NOAA researcher fell into the eye of Hurricane Michael: NPR

Scientist Michael Black's ashes were packaged in the Virginia State Flag before being released into Hurricane Michael. Black helped the pioneer use a device that fell into hurricanes to measure wind speed and air pressure. Courtesy NOAA hide caption change text Courtesy NOAA Scientist Michael Black's ashes were packaged in the Virginia State Flag before being released into Hurricane Michael. Black helped the pioneer use a device that fell into hurricanes to measure wind speed and air pressure. Courtesy NOAA Last fall, as Hurricane Michael swung toward Florida pan trade, NOAA officials say it carries something besides rain and wind – the ashes of hurricane researcher Michael Black. Black was a research meteorologist who worked at the Hurricane Research Department of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, just across the bridge from Miami center. He was a pioneer in the use of drop wind probes – small measuring instruments that fell from airplanes that record wind speed, air pressure, temperature and humidity. In 1997, on a mission flying through Hurricane Guillermo in the Pacific, he had a bold idea. Why not drop some drop wind probes – sometimes called dropsondes – directly into the hurricane's eye wave? NOAA Research Meteorologist Stan Goldenberg, who worked with Michael Black for more than two decades, recalls the flight with black 21 years ago: "I remember the excitement we felt when seeing these winds and knowing that these" probes "could deal with it." Black's idea suddenly gave hurricane researchers an important…

Scientist Michael Black’s ashes were packaged in the Virginia State Flag before being released into Hurricane Michael. Black helped the pioneer use a device that fell into hurricanes to measure wind speed and air pressure.

Courtesy NOAA

hide caption

change text

Courtesy NOAA

Scientist Michael Black’s ashes were packaged in the Virginia State Flag before being released into Hurricane Michael. Black helped the pioneer use a device that fell into hurricanes to measure wind speed and air pressure.

Courtesy NOAA

Last fall, as Hurricane Michael swung toward Florida pan trade, NOAA officials say it carries something besides rain and wind – the ashes of hurricane researcher Michael Black. Black was a research meteorologist who worked at the Hurricane Research Department of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, just across the bridge from Miami center.

He was a pioneer in the use of drop wind probes – small measuring instruments that fell from airplanes that record wind speed, air pressure, temperature and humidity.

In 1997, on a mission flying through Hurricane Guillermo in the Pacific, he had a bold idea. Why not drop some drop wind probes – sometimes called dropsondes – directly into the hurricane’s eye wave?

NOAA Research Meteorologist Stan Goldenberg, who worked with Michael Black for more than two decades, recalls the flight with black 21 years ago: “I remember the excitement we felt when seeing these winds and knowing that these” probes “could deal with it.” Black’s idea suddenly gave hurricane researchers an important new computer program.

Now, more than a thousand drop wind probes are released to hurricanes every year, providing data transfers uploaded in computer models that predict the storm’s traces and intensity. Goldenberg says that these data have significantly improved forecasts, which reduces errors in projecting the hurricane’s tracks by 20-25 percent. “It’s hard to imagine how hurricane science, forecasts and everything would be like right now without dropwind data,” he says. “It’s so important.”

Michael Black worked at the Hurricane Research Department until he died unexpectedly in 2017 of heart failure. At that time, he had gone on more than 400 flights through hurricanes.

He knew his commitment to hurricane science, after he died. Black children asked for a rare honor for their father – that his ashes spread in a hurricane. Goldenberg says that this has previously been done for some other members in the strict hurricane research area. “There are some people who have been honored,” he says. “It’s like a 21 gun salute for us.”

Then it was about finding the right hurricane and the right flight. That moment came in October last year, as a new hurricane – serendipitously one that shared Michael’s name – spun into the Gulf of Mexico. Black’s daughter carried his ashes on a hurricane hunter flight, along with a crew of scientists who were ready to release dozens of drop wind probes he helped pioneer.

Crew members wrote messages of friendship and goodbye to a special drop windend that was released as a memorial to Black.

Courtesy or NOAA

hide caption

change text

Courtesy of NOAA

Crew members wrote messages of friendship and goodbye to a special drop windsend that was released as a memorial to black.

Courtesy of NOAA

After a few passes through the hurricane, the crew had a short ceremony. Then, Black’s ashes, wrapped in his homeland of Virginia flag, fell through the aircraft’s gutter into Hurricane Michael.

Goldenberg believes that his friend and colleague would have approved, for some reasons. “Number one,” he says, “it was in Hurricane Michael. Number two, you can say that his ashes went out like a drop probe – in the drop-in gutter.” Black’s friends and family also released a working drop probe in Black’s honor, a signed friendship and farewell message.

Share
Published by
Faela