NASA is helping out with tracking Earl's behavior by sending both its remotely operated Global Hawk aircraft and its DC-8 "flying laboratory" into and over the hurricane on Thursday.
Controlled by pilots at NASA's Dryden center in Edwards, Calif., Global Hawk was finishing up a 24-hour flight Thursday during which it took pictures of Earl from 60,000 feet. It flew repeated patterns over the storm while its suite of instruments took measurements.
"It turned out that Earl is a well behaved storm, with cloud tops generally well below flight altitude," said NASA's Bjorn Lambrigsten. "As a result, we have been able to make multiple passes straight across the eye, with several bulls-eyes."
"This has been a very good sortie so far, and the pilots are gaining experience and confidence with flying over a storm like this," he added.
The DC-8 crew went up for a second straight day, flying directly over the eye of the hurricane several times.
The NASA flights are in addition to flights by four aircraft operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation. All three groups are partners in a six-week campaign dubbed GRIP -- for Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes.