The El Niño phenomenon has affected most of the world's countries. To assess the effects of this weather pattern, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA teamed up to conduct a major study. The phenomenon is the strongest on record since the "Millennium drought" that has affected nations in 1998.
The agencies will conduct surveys and assessments through land, air and sea to investigate the ongoing El Niño that has ravaged the Pacific. This paves way to better understand the impact on weather systems that have brought wet and dry conditions to North America and other countries.
The observation flights are part of NOAA's existing project called Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT). NOAA's El Niño Rapid Response Field Campaign encompasses its Physical Sciences Division (PSD) which plays a major role in the rapid response field campaign. It aims to determine mechanisms affecting the weather pattern's impacts on the United States.
The project started in January and will conclude in March wherein the agencies are tasked to deploy resources to analyze the impacts of the weather phenomenon through research while the event is ongoing.
As part of SHOUT, the Global Hawk will fly over the Pacific area to assess the extent of El Niño's effect. It will fly for about four to six 24-hour flights in February where it will provide detailed measurements from a Pacific area, which is associated with series of weather disturbances that caused storms and rainfall in the West Coast. The abnormal pattern of weather changes caused a wet winter to most parts of the United States.
"The Global Hawk provides amazing capability in its ability to be airborne for 24-hours or more. With the aircraft's long-endurance we can sample a large range of the ocean, much like a satellite does but in much greater detail," Gary Wick, lead NOAA scientist and part of the SHOUT mission, said.
Aside from these missions, NOAA is also tasked to deploy a Gulfstream IV research plane as well as a NOAA Ship, Ronald H. Brown, which will both carry researchers to Kiritimati or Christmas Island near Honolulu, Hawaii. From their station, they will collect atmospheric data in the area.
The brewing 2016 El Niño resembles that of the one from December, 1997 that caused the 1998 biggest drought that affected the world. Both data collected 18 years apart reflect the classic pattern of a completely developed El Niño.
With the weather pattern continuing to develop in the Pacific area, scientists warn of drought, hunger, disease and war.