87th AMS Annual Meeting

Wednesday, 17 January 2007: 11:30 AM
The Impact of Low-Cost Lagrangian Drifters on Tropical Cyclone Analyses and Forecasts
212B (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
Joe Dreher, ENSCO Inc., Cocoa Beach, FL; and J. Manobianco
Poster PDF (602.4 kB)
ENSCO, Inc. has been designing and developing a new observing system known as Global Environmental Micro Sensors (GEMS). The main component of the GEMS system is an ensemble of airborne probes that will take measurements of pressure, temperature, moisture, and wind velocity as they are carried passively by the wind at various levels in the atmosphere. In order to maximize the time probes remain airborne, their design is based on a self-contained, super pressure balloon filled with helium to make them neutrally buoyant.

Each probe will have on-board power, communications, limited processing, and sensing capabilities using one-way RF communication with low-earth orbiting satellites to provide data exfiltration. The probes will contain micro global positioning systems for wind velocity measurements and micro electro mechanical system sensors for pressure, temperature, and moisture measurements. ENSCO is developing initial prototypes that will be field-tested over east central Florida in 2007 as part of a collaborative effort funded in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Although Lagrangian drifters have been used in meteorology for nearly 50 years, the novel aspect of the GEMS system is the integration of micro and eventually nanotechnology to develop probes with significantly lower mass, size, and cost. Given these attributes, large ensembles of probes could be deployed for research and operational missions thereby greatly expanding the amount of in situ observations, especially over data sparse oceanic regions. The GEMS system would be ideal for adaptive or targeted observing campaigns such as tropical cyclone reconnaissance where it is only cost effective and practical to obtain in situ, high-resolution, spatial and temporal measurements over limited domains.

This paper focuses on a series of high resolution, mesoscale observing system simulation experiments for Hurricane Floyd (1999). The results show that GEMS data can be used to map the four dimensional storm structure and near real-time intensity changes over very small time scales. Such a study will help to identify the appropriate mix of data from current and future observing systems that will maximize the impact on tropical cyclone analysis and forecasting. If a GEMS system can be implemented practically with such capability in a cost-effective manner, it could provide more than just incremental improvements in the ability to observe and predict tropical cyclones for research and operational meteorology.

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