1466 Leveraging Aircraft Data to Save Significant Funds on Upper Air Observations

Wednesday, 25 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Curtis Marshall, NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and R. Mamrosh

The establishment of the United States radiosonde network began in the late 1930s. While radiosondes have provided meteorologists with important atmospheric information for around 75 years, their significant expense and course spatial and horizontal resolution suggests that an alternative system might merit consideration.

The National Weather Service has a partnership with United Parcel Service and Southwest Airlines that provides accurate temperature, moisture, wind and pressure information from 135 commercial aircraft serving destinations in the United States and abroad. While the NWS has no plans to reduce radiosondes, soundings from aircraft equipped with the latest version of the Water Vapor Sensing System (WVSS-II) are now sufficiently abundant to consider the possible reduction of radiosonde launches from about a dozen locations near major airports.    

Data showing the number of WVSS-II equipped aircraft available within one hour of the 00z and 12z radiosonde launches in the continental United States for a three month period in 2016 will be presented. In addition, results from WVSS-II and radiosonde comparisons will be discussed, and sample WVSS-II and radiosonde soundings will be displayed. The advantages and disadvantages of replacing certain radiosondes with WVSS-II soundings will be discussed, as well as cost saving potential.

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