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The Operational Impact of and Future Requirements for Satellite Ocean Surface Vector Winds in Tropical Cyclone Analysis

Richard Knabb1, Michael Brennan1, Paul Chang2, Joseph Sienkiewicz3, Zorana Jelenak2, and Kevin Schrab Richard.Knabb@noaa.gov 1NOAA/NWS/NCEP/National Hurricane Center, 2NOAA/NESDIS/STAR, 3NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Ocean Prediction Center, 4NOAA/NWS Office of Science and Technology 4

Remotely sensed ocean surface vector wind (OSVW) measurements have become an important source of data for operational tropical cyclone (TC) analysis and forecasting at the National Hurricane Center (NHC). These data are also used for marine analysis and forecasting applications elsewhere within in the National Weather Service (NWS) at NCEP centers (NHC, OPC, EMC) and coastal weather forecast offices (WFOs).

A workshop was held at NHC in June 2006 to document the operational utilization and impacts of OSVW data from current research spaceborne microwave instruments, and to establish new NOAA operational requirements for OSVW measurements from future missions. Participants included users of OSVW data from NHC, OPC, EMC, NWS Southern, Western, Alaska, and Pacific regions, NWS headquarters, NOAA/NESDIS, NOAA/OAR, the U. S. Navy, NASA, academic researchers, and private companies. The workshop established that satellite- derived OSVW measurements are an important tool in daily NOAA/NWS forecast and warning operations and that current and planned satellite missions do not satisfy the newly established requirements.

A report summarizing the workshop findings and requirements has been widely distributed. High-level NWS and NOAA officials have been briefed on the findings of the workshop and have acknowledged the needs expressed in the report. NOAA currently has no plans for an operational OSVW satellite mission that will meet the new requirements or even maintain capabilities provided by current research missions (primarily the NASA QuikSCAT); however, the recently-released National Research Council decadal survey report does recommend that NOAA undertake an operational scatterometry mission in the 2013–2016 timeframe.

While OSVW data will be provided to NOAA by the new operational ASCAT scatterometer on EUMETSAT’s METOP-A satellite, these data will also not meet the new requirements nor maintain current research OSVW satellite capabilities. Therefore, the quality of NOAA/NWS operational forecasts and warnings will be compromised once QuikSCAT fails. Several workshop participants are advocating a satisfactory future OSVW satellite mission via the NOAA PPBES process and other avenues within NOAA. Higher-resolution all-weather surface wind data from such a mission would enable a critical step toward improving the analysis and forecasting of hurricane intensity, as well as other hazardous marine meteorological phenomena.

Examples of the utility of QuikSCAT OSVW data in operational TC analysis will be presented, along with the findings of the workshop and the new NOAA operational requirements for OSVW measurements from future satellite missions. Input from the Department of Defense (DoD) on the utility of OSVW data to their operational TC analysis and forecasting mission will be solicited.

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