Hurricane Synoptic Flow Experiment

Program Significance:

NHC estimates that hurricane preparation costs to the public are well over $155,000 for each nautical mile of coastline placed under a hurricane warning. Population levels in hurricane-prone coastal areas of the United States have increased dramatically over the past two decades. Similar increases are likely to continue and the resultant cost for hurricane preparedness will become even greater. Hurricane warnings are usually issued 18 to 24 h before landfall for a length of coastline averaging 300 nmi (555 km). The swath of damaging winds and tides caused by hurricanes that strike land, however, is generally less than 100 nmi (185 km). Thus, hurricane preparation costs can be reduced if the average errors associated with hurricane landfall forecasts are decreased. Earlier research suggested that improved hurricane track predictions can be achieved if accurate mid- and low-level tropospheric data are available from the synoptic environment around the storm, regions which typically have few midtropospheric observations. The Hurricane Synoptic Flow Experiment is designed to obtain these important observations as hurricanes approach the U. S. coastline. The impact of data from previous synoptic flow experiments has been evaluated using VICBAR, HRD's experimental barotropic hurricane track prediction model. Results show that the ODW data collected from previous experiments are responsible for error reductions of 12% to 16% in the 12 to 36 h forecast track. Similar improvements have also recently been demonstrated in two operational track models: NHC90 (a statistical-dynamical model), and the QLM (a multilevel primitive equation dynamical model). The ODWs have produced dramatic improvements, of up to 30%, in forecast tracks from NMC's Global Spectral model and the new nested model developed by the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL).


The ultimate objective of this study is the improvement of short range (24-36 h) hurricane track prediction. The immediate requirement is the collection of three (additional) data sets of mid- and low-tropospheric wind, thermodynamic, and pressure-height data within 810 nmi. (1500 km) of hurricane centers over oceanic regions. These data will be used by NHC and NMC to prepare analyses and official forecasts and will be incorporated in the objective statistical and dynamical hurricane prediction models.
In a research mode, these data will be used to help determine deployment strategies that maximize the impact of the data on track forecasts. These data sets will also be used to study the influence of synoptic-scale fields on changes in vortex intensity and track and to assess methods for obtaining atmospheric soundings with satellites.

Mission Description

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