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DoD and NOAA to Implement New Wind and Pressure Forecasting System Developed by MSU Researchers

December 1, 2011

Stennis Space Center, MS - Researchers from Mississippi State University's Geosystems Research Institute and Northern Gulf Institute have developed a new automated wind scheme that is going operational at the U.S. Department of Defense and NOAA's National Hurricane Center very soon. The new automated tropical cyclone forecasting system will aid in their abilities to better forecast hurricane wind structure and ultimately issue more accurate warnings to the public.

The scheme addresses one of the major forecast problems involving hurricanes: the prediction of their wind fields. It's well-known that intensity prediction has made slow progress the past few decades, which is anticipating the peak winds in the eye wall. Another problem is forecasting the wind structure, particularly how far the tropical storm winds extend from the storm. Intensity forecasts have been the community's research focus and generally wind structure issues haven't even been examined. Since peak winds and wind structure are dynamically related, one has to study both. However, trying to quantify wind structure accuracy in numerical models, especially in an operational setting, is difficult.

The new scheme was developed jointly by: the Geosystems Research Institute at Mississippi State University, and NOAA/NESDIS Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch in Fort Collins, CO; and the Naval Research Laboratory in Monterey, CA. Soon to be published in the American Meteorological Society Journal Weather and Forecasting, the new methodology is based on a well-known wind profile equation developed by Greg Holland in 1980 which tunes hurricane wind profiles. In this new scheme, the tuning parameter itself provides the diagnosis using model maximum winds and pressure. The paper shows that most operational models do not adequately capture basic wind and pressure balances. If the current model winds are incorrect, then certainly the forecasts will be inaccurate. Because the scheme is simple, it was implemented in the Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecasting (ATCF) system used by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), and soon will be used by the National Hurricane Center. For security reasons, ATCF is only available to DoD and NOAA operational centers.

More information about ATCF is available at http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/atcf_web/. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is a joint United States Navy - United States Air Force task force located at the Naval Maritime Forecast Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The JTWC is responsible for the issuing of tropical cyclone warnings in the North West Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean for United States Department of Defense interests, as well as U.S. and Micronesian civilian interests within the command's area of responsibility. The JTWC provides support to all branches of the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies. Their products are intended for the protection of primarily military ships and aircraft as well as military installations jointly operated with other countries around the world.

For more information, contact Dr. Fitzpatrick at fitz@gri.msstate.edu.