HMS Ocean is heading into the ‘Atlantic hurricane conveyor belt’ at top speed as she races to deliver crucial aid to Britons in the Caribbean.
Filled with aid from the UK and Gibraltar Governments – trucks, food, temporary shelters, building materials and toys – the helicopter carrier is following in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the latest storm to smash its way through the islands of the Caribbean.
Ocean is due to reach the region at the end of the week, which has meant the staff of her Hydrographic Meteorological Office – known simply as the Met Office by the crew of Britain’s biggest warship – are keeping an even closer eye of the weather than usual.
“Everyone is interested in the weather especially now as HMS Ocean is heading into the hurricane conveyor belt,” Lieutenant Commander Gordon Jones, Senior Meteorologist Officer aboard HMS Ocean.
“A hurricane is a local name for tropical storms in the Atlantic. They usually die down when they lose their drive such as when moving over cold water. Hurricanes need moisture and heat going in which comes from the sea.
“To some extent you can predict the force of it but predicting the full force and the direction is very challenging.”
One of the weapons in Gordon’s forecasting armoury is his weather balloons, a traditional form of data collection which is still valuable in the modern age. Launched from the ship’s flight deck, each balloon is inflated with helium and released into the atmosphere allowing HMS Ocean’s meteorologists to confirm the accuracy of the computer-based information that they are dependent on for forecasting.
Using weather balloons sends us lots of important data such as what height the clouds are, whether the atmosphere is stable or unstable and if there is a weather front coming through.