TJ25.3 Implementation of upper-ocean temperature measurements in operational hurricane reconnaissance: successes and challenges from the 2011–2012 AXBT Demonstration Project

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 2:00 PM
Room 4ABC (Austin Convention Center)
Elizabeth R. Sanabia, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD; and B. S. Barrett, P. G. Black, S. Chen, and J. Cummings

The thermal structure of the upper ocean affects tropical cyclone (TC) intensity. Recent research field programs have demonstrated that the inclusion of upper-ocean temperature observations in coupled numerical prediction models increases TC track and intensity forecast skill. These critical observations are often challenging to obtain, since dense cloud canopy and sparse buoy observations frequently preclude remote and in-situ temperature profile retrievals in the vicinity of a TC. Therefore, the Working Group for Hurricane and Winter Storms Operations and Research approved a multi-year project beginning in the 2011 North Atlantic hurricane season to assess whether the collection of these upper-ocean temperature observations during operational TC reconnaissance missions could improve coupled numerical model forecasts of TC track and intensity. Results from the first two seasons, in which over 200 AXBTs were deployed during more than 20 U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flights included successful near-real-time assimilation of upper-ocean temperature observations, increased model accuracy of the upper-ocean thermal structure, improved track forecasts in a coupled dynamical model, and minor improvements in forecast intensity in both coupled dynamical and statistical models. The (1) background and purpose of the AXBT Demonstration Project; (2) operational methodology employed during the 2011 and 2012 seasons; (3) an initial set of results from the inclusion of AXBT data in both statistical and dynamical numerical prediction models; and (4) future plans for the AXBT program will be presented.
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