High-tech Plane Deployed to Improve Winter Storm Forecasts

Data collected over the north Pacific Ocean the next two months by a highly specialized NOAA jet aircraft will improve North American winter storm forecasts.

Scientists aboard NOAA’s twin-engine Gulfstream IV-SP aircraft, typically used to study hurricanes, will measure wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature and humidity in areas of the Pacific where North American storms breed and where taking measurements is difficult and data is sparse. NOAA will fly out of Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, where the aircraft will be based through February. The aircraft will reposition to Anchorage, Alaska in March before returning to its home base in Tampa, Fla.


Improved Forecasts

Data from the flights will be monitored by meteorologists aboard the aircraft and relayed as it is collected to NOAA National Weather Service forecasters on the ground, who will use the data in real time to improve forecasts of potentially extreme winter weather events across the entire country and extend those forecasts into the three- to seven-day ranges.


NOAA’s Gulfstream IV jet will collect data over the Pacific Ocean to improve winter storm forecasts. Credit:NOAA


“Data from this special plane will enable forecasters to see whether or not all the ingredients necessary for a strong winter storm are present,” said Jack R. Parrish, flight director and meteorologist with NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.


Flights as Far North as Alaska

The mission will take the Gulfstream IV north, east and west of Hawaii, and occasionally as far north as Alaska. The flight tracks will be developed by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, part of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“These additional targeted observations, combined with data from other observing systems, enhance the accuracy of the forecasts, especially for high impact winter weather events,” said NCEP Chief Science Officer and NOAA Corps Capt. Barry Choy. “By improving our forecasts, we can alert the public, emergency managers, air carriers, utility companies and others sooner so they can prepare more effectively for significant storms, and save lives, property and money.”

NOAA has been conducting winter storm reconnaissance flights regularly since 1999.


Based in Tampa Florida

Permanently based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., the Gulfstream IV is part of the NOAA fleet of research aircraft and ships operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes both civilians and the commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us onFacebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at social media channels.