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NOAA FORECAST MODEL HELPS GUIDE GLOBAL AVIATOR DURING
RECORD-SETTING FLIGHT

NOAA image of NOAA Global Forecast System model world map.March 10, 2005 ó Flying across the globe with trust in a single forecast to complete a safe journey is a monumental task. Aviator Steve Fossett successfully met this challenge and became the first person to fly solo, non-stop, around the globe. Aiding Fossett was a meteorologist who produced a forecast using the NOAA Global Forecast System model. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA Global Forecast System model world map. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Fossett spent 67 hours, two minutes and 38 seconds between February 28 and March 3 to loop around Earth—beginning and ending his venture in Salina, Kan.

Paramount to the mission was an accurate and reliable forecast. "I submitted a flight plan before takeoff and it could not be changed in flight," said David Dehenauw, a Belgian meteorologist who provided Fossett his forecast. "A shift in jet stream position during flight would be lethal to the project."

Dehenauw sought guidance from the NOAA GFS model for its reliability and accessibility. He first used the model in 2002 to support Fossett's trip around the globe in a balloon.

Forecast parameters of high interest included landing conditions, turbulence, icing, winds at various altitudes, precipitation, relative humidity, vertical velocity (areas of rising air) and mean sea level pressure.

"We had to make sure we had a consistent forecast over the global flight route for seven to ten days in advance, and thanks to the ensemble prediction system (of the GFS model), I was able to forecast ground conditions at Salina Airport in Kansas and around the world," said Dehenauw.

NOAA forecast models, GFS included, are openly accessible to the international community, and this proved to be a valuable asset to Dehenauw. "NOAA's open Web policy gave me a chance the last ten years to understand the quality and errors of the GFS. It is fully available for everyone," he said.

For Fossett's most recent flight, the GFS model was obtained through the Web sites of the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory and the NOAA Operational Model Archive Distribution System.

NOAA's suite of forecast models are operated by the NOAA Environmental Modeling Center in Camp Springs, Md. EMC develops, improves and monitors data assimilation systems and models of the atmosphere, ocean and coupled system.

EMC meteorologist Ken Campana said, "The GFS forecasts are very valuable to the aviation industry and others in the transportation industry." Unlike any other global model produced in any country, the GFS is the only one updated four times a day with a forecast range out to 384 hours (16 days).

In Dehenauw's view, "...no other global model is so helpful in forecasting precipitation and storms."

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Environmental Modeling Center

NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (GFS Model)

NOAA Operational Model Archive Distribution System (GFS model)

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 134