High Tech Aircraft to Improve North Pacific Weather Forecasts

NOAA Gulfstream IV in Flight - Photo by NOAAAccurate weather forecasting is vital to Alaskans, whether it’s planning for an outdoor activity or making a decision to travel to the next town. The National Weather Service (NWS) works hard to provide accurate forecasts and it is always good to see greater support for their efforts. Our weather service is part of a larger organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Recently NOAA announced its effort to provide additional weather data to the NWS through use of a Gulfstream IV jet. Use of the high tech aircraft will improve north Pacific weather forecasts.

The G-IV is an excellent atmospheric research platform. The jet has a flight crew of two pilots, a flight engineer, a flight director and four systems operators. The Gulfstream has a service ceiling of 45,000 feet, can cruise at up to 460 knots (529 miles per hour) and can stay on station for over eight hours, giving it enough time enough to cover 3,800 nautical miles.

NOAA plans to collect weather data over the North Pacific Ocean in the next two months, using their Gulfstream IV, with flights ranging from the Hawaii to Alaska. The jet will be based out of Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu until March of 2013, when it will relocate to Anchorage and complete its mission. Normally used to collect data on hurricanes, the NOAA aircraft will be measuring winds aloft, barometric pressure, air temperature and relative humidity.

Information collected by the research aircraft will be transmitted to NWS forecasters, who will be able to use the data to improve the accuracy of their forecast products. Extreme weather events and longer forecasts are of special interest to the effort.

In a press release, NOAA Chief Science Officer Barry Choy says, “These additional targeted observations, combined with data from other observing systems, enhance the accuracy of the forecasts, especially for high impact winter weather events. 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’s Gulfstream IV aircraft is managed by the NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. A visit to their website reveals interesting information on the agency’s ships and aircraft. There is also a provision available for visitors to track NOAA research craft in real time.

Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum

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