NOAA WP-3D ORION "HURRICANE HUNTER" PLANE BRAVES WINTER WEATHER TO HELP VERIFY SATELLITE WIND MEASUREMENTS
March 1, 2007 — A NOAA WP-3D Orion "hurricane hunter" wrapped up a nearly month-long mission in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, to acquire wind and precipitation data over the ocean in severe weather that will be used to validate satellite measurements and improve marine weather forecasts. The data will ultimately benefit the shipping and fishing industries and offshore oil platform interests worldwide. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA P-3 “hurricane hunter” aircraft in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, taking part in the NOAA 2007 Ocean Winds Winter Experiment. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
"One thing we were able to do for the first time was validate and verify the presence of hurricane force winds in extra-tropical cyclones," said Paul Chang, NOAA's principal scientist for the Ocean Winds Program. "These have been observed in QuikSCAT satellite wind products. It is because of QuikSCAT that the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center now issues hurricane-force wind warnings from the strongest of the extra-tropical cyclones. Our P-3 flights on February 8 and 9 verified their forecasts and were coincident with QuikSCAT overpasses. This was definitely a one-of-a-kind dataset."
Since the aircraft arrived on January 17 from its base at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Tampa, Fla., the aircrew and scientists flew into extreme winter weather conditions in support of the NOAA Satellite and Information Service’s 2007 Ocean Winds Winter Experiment. Ocean Winds is a continuing project whose objective is to improve the quality of satellite-based ocean wind measurements during severe weather, including hurricanes and winter storms. The project includes improved measurement of high winds and heavy precipitation over the oceans. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA P-3 “hurricane hunter” aircraft in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, taking part in the NOAA 2007 Ocean Winds Winter Experiment. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
The P-3 is carrying some of the same instruments used on NASA's polar-orbiting satellite, QuikSCAT, and on Europe's EUMETSAT's polar-orbiting satellite, METOP-A. The flights are conducted when the satellite does an overpass, enabling scientists on board the aircraft to collect data in a cold weather environment that will be compared later to the satellite measurements. In addition to validating the satellite data, the experiment will help determine how wind measurements change across sea surface temperature boundaries.
The P-3 flew the first of seven missions on January 20. According to AOC project manager James McFadden, "The scientific crew was quite happy and requested another mission for the next morning. Despite seven inches of snow that fell that night, the crew struggled through thigh-high drifts to get to the aircraft and were able do a pre-flight and get it launched for a second successful mission." (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of ocean winds taken at 10:03 a.m. EST on March 1, 2007. Please credit “NOAA.”)
"What's interesting about these observations is that they are advancing our knowledge of the remote sensing of the ocean surface wind direction and speed utilizing microwave radars, which also are referred to as scatterometers," said Chang. "This knowledge will yield improved wind products from satellite scatterometers currently in orbit and assist in the design and planning of future missions that measure satellite ocean surface wind direction and speed. These data are being used daily in NOAA's operational weather forecast and warning mission."
The NOAA Aircraft Operations Center is part of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes civilians as well as officers of the NOAA Corps, the smallest of the nation's seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps pilots and civilian meteorologists, flight and electronics engineers and technicians are highly trained to operate in adverse weather conditions.
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.
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