Live Hurricane Hunter Missions in Google Earth

Live Hurricane Hunters in Google EarthHurricane reconnaissance is the most accurate way to get a read on the condition of a tropical storm or hurricane. Special aircraft, known as Hurricane Hunters, are equipped with weather instruments, and a brave complement of scientists and aviators, and they fly right through these huge storms to measure the winds, temperature, air pressure, etc. Weather forecasters use the data to get more accurate information on the strength and to better forecast the storms.
The folks at Tropical Atlantic, have put together Google Earth files letting you watch live hurricane recon missions, or see the results from recent missions. Right now, we have two tropical storms in the Atlantic: Tropical Storm Cristobal off Cape Hatteras, and Tropical Storm Dolly off the Yucatan peninsula. If you go to their special recon page, you can see links to their recon archive, or to the current live recon data for Google Earth. Once you open a recon file, you will see colored wind barbs which indicate the strength of the winds for the storm at that position as the plane flew through that part of the storm. A legend in the upper left gives you an indication to the strength of the winds based on the color. The wind barbs also indicate the strength by the number and shape of the barb for each position. And, finally, you can click on a wind barb with the left mouse button and get details on the reading for each position (which also includes, temperature, pressure, altitude of the plane, etc.).
This is a really cool way to get some insight on how weather forecasters gather their data for big storms. Tropical Atlantic also has a special Google Earth file which provides you with a wide range of weather data for Atlantic weather including satellite photos, sea surface temperatures, wind and wave analysis, and much more. That’s why their collection is a part of the GEB storm tracking tools collection which gives you access to the best global storm tracking tools available for Google Earth.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. I like the story behind this, its a great dataset to present in Google Earth but I don’t like the way its presented, for details see my post

  2. Hi Richard,
    I just found this blog and I am very impressed what you have done in regards to presenting the Hurrican Hunter wind data. It is awesome and very cool. I am a research associate at Baylor University and have been trying to find something like this to present our aircraft data. I am extremely interested in learning how you did did. I will of course give you and whoever else contributed credit.
    If I have lat,lon, wind dir, and wind speed data how would you incorporate to make plots like the ones you have generated. Also, would it be difficult to graph a color coded gas concentration (e.g. formaldehyde) along the flight path. I have 5 second averaged data.
    I look forward hearing from you.
    Thank you.
    Sergio Alvarez
    Baylor University
    Institute for Air Science

  3. mark simmons says:

    I would like to know if you have live recon data for google earth for Mac. I have the latest software for Mac called snow leopard.
    Thank you for your help

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