NOAA plane to collect data to help forecasts


POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2010

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's high-tech research plane will fly winter reconnaissance flights from Hawaii in March to collect data to improve storm forecasts.

NOAA included Japan-based missions in the program early last year, and the twin turbofan jet will be stationed at Yokota Air Force Base through next month.

The plane flew 332 flight hours and logged miles equivalent to circling Earth five times during its winter reconnaissance last year. Missions previously were flown from Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast.

“;By expanding the reach across the International Date Line to Japan, NOAA is essentially pushing farther upstream to serve areas of interest with greater lead times,”; NOAA said.

In March, the highly specialized plane will fly into “;data sparse regions”; to collect information on wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature and humidity and send it by satellite to global operational weather forecasting centers.

Model forecasts of precipitation amounts improved 10 percent to 15 percent on average after previous missions, NOAA said.

“;These flights will help us better observe and understand the current state of the atmosphere over the Pacific, where most of North America's weather originates, in order to better predict future conditions across the U.S. and Canada three to six days in advance,”; said Louis Uccellini, director, National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md.

Improvements to computer models will provide meteorological support for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, as well as enable more precise precipitation forecasts along the mainland West Coast and farther east, NOAA said.

The high-altitude, high speed Gulfstream IV aircraft is based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla.