From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published January 14, 2011 11:20 AM

NOAA's Weatherman in the Sky

Forecasting the weather can be a tricky business, especially in winter. When a winter storm approaches, forecasts can range widely across the board from light flurries to a blizzard. As many know, the jet stream over the North American continent moves west to east. That is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dispatching its state of the art aircraft to gather atmospheric data over the North Pacific Ocean, the region where North America's weather originates.

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NOAA's new aircraft is highly specialized to collect data which can be analyzed for predicting weather intensities and storm tracks. It is a high-altitude twin-engine Gulfstream IV-SP jet that will be stationed at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, but will be later moved to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Data that will be collected include wind speed & direction, air pressure, temperature, humidity, and more. This data will then be transmitted to forecasting centers where they will be plugged into sophisticated computer models.

"Data collected from these flights will help provide a more refined snapshot of the atmosphere, which in turn improves forecasts," said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, in Camp Springs, Md.

From the western side of the Pacific, they can see storms advancing towards North America well in advance. Although the west coast does not experience hurricane-like storms, winter storms can be particularly brutal.

"By expanding our reach to Japan, we are able to gather data upstream of winter storms, thereby gaining more lead time for emergency managers and responders to prepare for the impacts of severe winter weather on lives and property," said meteorologist and flight director Jack Parrish with the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

The NOAA aircraft are being deployed by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

For more information: http://www.ncep.noaa.gov/

photo courtesy of NOAA

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