Shay Receives NASA Achievement Award As Part of GRIP Team


MIAMI — September 26, 2011 — University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science Professor Lynn “Nick” Shay was among the group of atmospheric scientists recognized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for efforts to study the creation and intensification of hurricanes during the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment last year. The team was comprised of scientists and engineers from several universities and government agencies including NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Mission scientists captured data on hurricanes as they formed and intensified from seven aircraft. It was the first time the Global Hawk drone was used for this type of data collection. The Global Hawk can fly autonomously to altitudes above 60,000 feet — roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner — and as far as 11,000 nautical miles. Operators pre-program a flight path, and then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours.

Shay’s lab, which has done extensive work over the Loop Current and mapped the eddy fields in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, provided oceanic heat content estimates from NASA Jason satellites to the Jet Propulsion Lab for operations. NASA aircraft (DC-8, WB-57, Global Hawk) worked in tandem with NOAA and NSF programs. The aircraft flew over systems that were either weakening or that were expected to form into hurricanes to gather data that might offer clues as to why some storms rapidly intensify into severe hurricanes while others fizzle. Two hurricanes in particular, Hurricanes Earl and Karl provided some excellent clues.

“One of the interesting outcomes from the research was hurricane Earl rapidly intensified over a warm pool with high oceanic heat content just north of the Caribbean Islands,” said Shay, who is director of UM’s Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory. “Just as in the Gulf of Mexico and northwest Caribbean Sea, these deep warm pools can act as fuel injectors for hurricanes. Now we have some highly detailed data that we are processing to see what other valuable information can be gleaned about hurricane intensification.”

GRIP, a NASA Earth science field experiment in 2010 was conducted to capitalize on a number of ground networks, airborne science platforms, and space-based assets. More information about the campaign is available at

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

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