NOAA Utilization of the Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft for Atmospheric Research and Forecast Improvement
Abstract:High altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft provide a tremendous new capability for monitoring the atmosphere in support of weather research and forecast improvement. The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program is collaborating with NASA on the use of their Global Hawk (GH) aircraft for research into better understanding and forecasting high-impact weather events. NOAA has participated in multiple field campaigns either in partnership with NASA including the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP, 2010) and the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3, 2011-2014) experiments, or under NOAA leadership during the Winter Storms and Pacific Atmospheric Rivers (WISPAR, 2011) experiment. This past year, NOAA began a 3-year project, Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT), to quantify the influence of UAS data on high-impact weather prediction and assess the operational effectiveness of UAS to help mitigate the risk of potential satellite observing gaps. The NOAA UAS system partnered with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the development of a dropsonde system for the GH which has been flown along with other remote sensing instrumentation.
This presentation summarizes our key results to date and describes our planned activities over the next two years. Flights during WISPAR provided measurements of water vapor transport within atmospheric rivers for evaluation of numerical weather prediction forecasts and analyses. A flight sampling the Arctic atmosphere north of Alaska included the first dropsondes released in the Arctic since the 1950’s and extensive measurements of boundary-layer variability over an ocean-ice lead feature. Assimilation of GH dropsonde data collected in the environment around tropical storms during HS3 has demonstrated significant positive forecast improvements. Data are also being employed in the validation of multiple satellite-derived products. In SHOUT, campaigns are planned targeting Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basin tropical cyclones and high-impact weather events affecting Alaska and the continental U.S. Dedicated Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs) and Observing System Experiments (OSEs) are underway to evaluate instrumentation and sampling and to demonstrate the impact of the data.