92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012: 2:00 PM
Advancing Tropical Cyclone Forecasts Using Aircraft Observations: A Historical Perspective
Room 235/236 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Frank Marks, NOAA/AOML/HRD, Miami, FL

Advances in the study of tropical cyclones using aircraft observations came about through improvements (scientific and technological) in the ability to observe different aspects of the storms. Early studies provided the basis for understanding tropical cyclone structure and evolution. Technological advances in aircraft in situ and remote sensing observing capabilities, particularly the development of airborne Doppler radars, revolutionized our depiction of tropical cyclone structure and dynamics. Further technological advances in aircraft and instrumentation design over the last 20 years provided the tools necessary to greatly expand our knowledge of tropical cyclones. Five key technological advances were instrumental in improving observations of tropical cyclones in the last 20 years: (1) the development of new and improved in situ flight-level instrumentation; (2) the development of new and improved airborne Doppler radar systems; (3) the development of new and improved airborne expendables such as the GPS dropwindsondes to sample the atmosphere and upper ocean; (4) the development of Stepped-frequency Microwave Radiometer; and (5) development of new and improved telecommunications systems to enable real-time transmission of all of these data directly to the ground for use by operational forecasters and to initialize numerical models. Each of these technologies started as tools used by researchers to better understand and describe processes critical to estimation of a tropical cyclone's location, intensity, and structure. Many were subsequently transitioned into operational use to improve situation awareness for the forecasters, and more recently to initialize and evaluate numerical models. However, even though many of these technological improvements were transitioned into operational use the pace of forecast improvement is not keeping up with the increasing risk caused by tropical cyclones. In order to increase the pace of forecast improvement NOAA developed the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP) whose goal is to decrease the error in forecast guidance for track and intensity by 20% in 5 years and 50% in 10 years. In order to achieve such and ambitious goal HFIP is pursuing a strategy that is focused on making use of the aircraft observations to provide better initial analyses of the storm's structure for the models to start from. Recent results from the program show that assimilation of aircraft observations, particularly airborne Doppler winds shows promise of reaching HFIP intensity goals. This presentation will include a historical overview of aircraft technological developments leading to advancements in tropical cyclone forecasting and a few of the recent results.

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