P2B.8 The new CIMSS tropical cyclone web site: A portal to advances in satellite analysis

Thursday, 1 May 2008
Palms ABCD (Wyndham Orlando Resort)
Christopher S. Velden, CIMSS/Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Thirteen years ago, CIMSS launched the first-of-its-kind web site devoted entirely to Tropical Cyclones (TCs). Since then, other than frequent updates and product additions, the site has not undergone any major changes. This summer the CIMSS TC group launched a major site upgrade.

From its inception, the site rapidly gained popularity with both the TC community and a more general audience. The site remains a very popular source for hurricane information, and as a portal for cutting edge CIMSS research on TCs. It is not unusual for the National Hurricane Center to mention the satellite-derived products available on the site in public forecast discussions during important hurricane events. It is also common for the site to accrue daily “hits” in the millions during a major hurricane. In fact, on several occasions, web traffic to the site has slowed down the entire Univ. of Wisconsin network! Recent Net communications upgrades have alleviated this problem, and advancements in web technology have opened doors to new possibilities for data displays and interactive features.

Intended for a slightly more sophisticated user, the upgraded TC site includes a new layout and increased interactive capabilities. Interested analysts, researchers or just plain hurricane aficionados can find real time information for current storms, regional analyses based on satellite-derived variables, special satellite imagery, and examples of the SSEC/CIMSS TC Group research projects. The new site can be found at: http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic2

The existing TC web site will remain active for another year or so while the transition occurs to the upgraded site, which is still a work in progress.

Featured on the new site is an interactive window for viewing and analyzing real time TCs. Known as the “TCTrak” window, this analysis tool uses McIDAS utilities and allows multiple data and product overlays, animation manipulation, satellite-based TC estimates and diagnostics, and more. The intent is to make this site easy for a user to interrogate the meteorological conditions of a storm in real time. Among the available products are: multispectral imagery (IR and microwave) from virtually all operational (and some research) geo- and polar-orbiting satellites; SST analyses; satellite-derived products such as winds, shear, and intensity estimates; scatterometer winds; conventional observations; current TC track and forecast discussions; numerical model track forecasts, and more.

Despite a few remaining glitches, CIMSS released the new site to the TC community in July of 2007 to get feedback during the recent Atlantic TC season. The new site relies on functions found in the latest versions of popular web browsers; an issue that kept a few users from being able to view the new site. However, initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Most users have embraced the added functionalities and interactive access to the data and products. We will continue to add new features to the site, and are confident that it will be a valuable TC web resource and outreach element to those inside and outside of the TC community.

In addition to the enhanced real time site, we will soon unveil a new online satellite data and product archive site that will allow interactive online browsing and retrieval of historical global TC satellite data, products, and locally produced diagnostics. We envision a graphical user interface that will allow researchers to easily peruse historical storms and access satellite data and products for their analyses.

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