NOAA’s hurricane-tracking Gulfstream IV glides into KCI

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Meteorologists have all sorts of tools to predict what the weather, and one of those tools landed in Kansas City on Thursday. A Gulfstream IV owned and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association gets closer to a storm than anything else on earth, or in the air, and FOX 4 got an up close look at the plane.

"We aid the National Hurricane Center by flying this aircraft through the hurricanes to be the eyes and ears to tell the Hurricane Center really what's going on inside the storm,” said Lieutenant David Cowan.

With a crew of eight people on board, Lt. Cowan flies the NOAA G-IV into some of the most volatile weather on the planet.

"We know when and where to avoid the really nasty situations,” he explained.

Meteorologist Ian Sears is the flight director and makes sure the scientific objectives are met safely. He also served as FOX 4’s tour director.

"The reason this airplane is flying is for releasing drop wind sondes, that is the original reason it was acquired,” he said.

Wind sondes are dropped from the airplane and fall through hurricanes, transmitting data back to the crew on board.

"You have your temperature and humidity here and inside is an electronic circuit board where you have a GPS sensor and a pressure sensor,” he said. "As it's falling you are collecting wind speed and wind direction, the temperature and humidity and inside you have the pressure so you know what the weather is happening underneath you."

This G-IV also has a new weather tracking device.

"This tail behind me is called a tail-doppler radar. What it does is it’s taking a scan of thunderstorms, and the up and down, so we’re getting a vertical profile of the thunderstorm as we’re flying past them,” Sears said.

The system better allows the meteorologists to understand the structure of the storm and get the information to NOAA in real-time so we will know how it will affect us here on the ground.