Fourth Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX 4):

15 August — 26 September 2001


Project Managers: R. Stephen Hipskind, Michael S. Craig

CAMEX 4 was a large airborne field campaign sponsored by the Atmospheric Dynamics and Remote Sensing Program in NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise. R. Kakar is the Headquarters Program Manager. The primary objective of the experiment was to better characterize and understand tropical cyclones to eventually improve our capability to predict their intensification and precipitation amounts. The prediction of Tropical Cyclones, especially their track and landfall location, has improved dramatically over the last three decades, especially with the advent of satellite based surveillance. Still, one of the largest uncertainties is in understanding the mechanisms by which some storms intensify into Category 5 monster hurricanes and some that are predicted to intensify actually fizzle. The other large scientific uncertainty is the amount of precipitation generated by these tropical storms. Some of the largest hurricanes drop relatively light rainfall amounts while other smaller storms may lead to copious precipitation and flooding.

CAMEX 4 assembled an array of platforms and instruments to make measurements from the Earth’s surface, space and everywhere in between (Figure 1). There were several research weather radars and a vertical radar wind profiler which were set up and operated in the Florida keys. There was a special radiosonde operation set up on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The heart of the project was the two NASA aircraft, the DC-8 and ER-2 as well as two NOAA P-3’s. NOAA also flew the Gulfstream IV as part of their ongoing operational support of the National Hurricane Center as did the Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Wing with their C-130’s. NASA also funded the Australian Aerosonde, an Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to make meteorological measurements in the lowest 1500 meters over the ocean. The NASA aircraft were based at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida and the Aerosonde was based at the Mayport Naval Base just east of Jacksonville.

CAMEX 4 was scheduled to coincide with the climatological period with the most frequent Tropical Cyclones in the Western Atlantic. There was a dearth of tropical storms during the experiment this year, but we were able to fly into three tropical storms, two of which were hurricanes. On the last three days of the project we conducted three flight missions into Hurricane Humberto from its genesis as a tropical depression to a tropical storm and finally its intensification into a hurricane. On one of those flight days we had six aircraft stacked from the Air Force C-130’s at the low altitude to the ER-2 at 19 kilometer altitude. These flights returned unprecedented data sets from the storm and should lead to a better understanding of hurricane development. CAMEX 4 also accomplished several flights in support of the Keys Area Microphysics Project (KAMP) which was focused on cloud dynamics, microphysics and quantitative precipitation estimation.

CAMEX 4 was a close collaborative effort between NASA and the NOAA Hurricane Research Division. Unlike the previous CAMEX 3 mission in 1998, there was a much greater effort to coordinate the aircraft flight tracks so that the aircraft were in the same geographical area at the same times. This will greatly enhance the ability to analyze the data from the different platforms. In addition CAMEX 4 added a dropsonde capability to the ER-2 aircraft. This is the first time ever that complete soundings have been made from the stratosphere to the surface in the middle of a tropical storm.

CAMEX 4 was composed of 28 Principal Investigators from five NASA Centers, two other government agencies (NOAA and NSF), and 10 universities. Other collaborators were the Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Wing (the Hurricane Hunters) and the U.S. Navy at Jacksonville, Mayport and NAS Key West.


Collaborator: Robbie Hood, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Project Staff: Quincy Allison, Steve Gaines, Joe Goosby, Chris Scofield, Betty Symonds, Sue Tolley, Kent Shiffer

Pont of Contact: R. Stephen Hipskind, 650/604-5076,


Figure 1. A conceptual representation of the teams participating in CAMEX-4 and the relative locations of their bases of operations in the southeastern United States.

[map of operations]