A Sounding-based Severe Weather Tool to Support Daily Operations at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
William H. Bauman III, ENSCO, Inc., Cocoa Beach, FL; and W. P. Roeder
Manuscript (545.4 kB)

Handout (1003.3 kB)

People and property at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) are at risk when severe weather occurs. Strong winds, hail and tornadoes can injure individuals and cause costly damage to structures if not properly protected. NASA's Launch Services Program and Ground Systems Division Operations Program along with other programs at KSC and CCAFS use the daily and weekly severe weather forecasts issued by the 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS) to determine if they need to limit an activity such as working on gantries, or protect property such as a vehicle on a pad. Missed lead-times and false alarm rate statistics show that severe weather in east-central Florida is difficult to forecast during the warm season (May-September). Due to the threat severe weather poses to life and property at the Eastern Range and the difficulty in making the forecast, the 45 WS requested the Applied Meteorology Unit (AMU) develop a warm season severe weather tool for use in the Meteorological Interactive Data Display System (MIDDS) based on the late morning, 1500 UTC (1100 local time), CCAFS (XMR) atmospheric balloon sounding. The 45 WS frequently makes decisions to issue a severe weather watch and other severe weather warning support products to NASA and the 45th Space Wing in the late morning, after the 1500 UTC sounding, which is more representative of the atmospheric instability than the early morning, 1000 UTC, sounding. A tool using the 1500 UTC sounding should improve the accuracy and timeliness of severe weather notifications provided by the 45 WS to help decision makers implement appropriate mitigation efforts. The results of this task indicate the proper use of certain stability indices and parameters based on the late morning XMR soundings can improve the forecasters ability to identify days with a severe weather threat. To do so, the AMU calculated a Total Threat Score (TTS) for every 1500 UTC sounding in the 24-year database and compared the TTS to reported severe weather occurrences on each day with a sounding. From this, they determined a frequency of reported severe weather for each TTS and developed an operational tool in MIDDS. The AMU's new tool eliminated 83% of the subjective questions posed to the forecasters in the previous MIDDS tool, thereby streamlining the process of running the tool in MIDDS and creating a more objective assessment of the daily warm season severe weather threat. This should contribute directly to the 45 WS goal of improving severe weather warning capability for its NASA, US Air Force and commercial customers.