S162 Forecasting for Hot-Air Balloon Events

Sunday, 6 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Scott Kacelowicz, Millersville University, Millersville, PA; and T. Morrow and J. M. Rafach

A team of three Millersville University meteorology students spent the summer of 2012 providing weather forecasts to hot-air balloon pilots at major ballooning events in Frankenmuth MI, Meadville PA, Middletown OH, and Canton, OH. Millersville University has been involved in educating balloon pilots and providing weather information services and products to the ballooning community since 1988, including customized WRF output tailored to the needs of the balloonists (see http://www.atmos.millersville.edu/~wrf/balloon/. Balloon pilots rely primarily on short-term forecasts and nowcasts, surface observations, and wind profiles, and require a keen intuitive sense of boundary layer meteorology. Events typically have two launches per day, one shortly after sunrise and the other about 90 minutes before sunset; both during atmospheric transition periods. Moreover, the topography of the location plays a key role in determining the microscale characteristics of the atmospheric flow regimes, and its understanding is critical to the safety of the pilots, crew, and equipment. In the hours prior to each launch, the team prepared a forecast based on the WRF output and terminal forecasts (TAFs). Supporting this forecast was a suite of observations, including surface observations using Kestrel's and METARs, as well as wind and derived wind shear profiles from pibals/theodolite. This poster will present an overview of the forecasting process targeted for this special needs community.
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