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The University of South Alabama Center for Hurricane Intensity and Landfall Research

Sytske Kimball (skimball@usouthal.edu), University of South Alabama Peter Black (Peter.Black@noaa.gov), NOAA/HRD Naomi Surgi (Naomi.Surgi@noaa.gov), NOAA/EMC John Proni (John.Proni@noaa.gov), NOAA/AOML

Recent active hurricane seasons have shown that accurate prediction of hurricane landfall forms a major challenge to the hurricane forecasting community. To improve hurricane prediction during the next decade along the Gulf Coast will require a dense network of offshore, coastal, and inland instrument platforms. Such a network in these three critical zones will provide unique new measurements to advance both physical understanding and forecasting capabilities of landfalling hurricanes. Meanwhile, the Nation’s next generation operational hurricane forecast system, the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model, developed by NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) will require extensive testing and validation. Both these goals are the thrust of the mission of the University of South Alabama (USA) Center for Hurricane Intensity and Landfall Research.

The offshore observation platforms will initially consist of three ADCP moorings offshore from coastal Alabama for the purpose of measuring surface wave spectra and coastal currents to observe shoaling of coastal waves from deep to shallow waters. NOAA P3 research flights will contribute additional observations of surface winds, direction wave spectra, ocean temperature and current profiles and low-level boundary layer wind structure to study the transition of the hurricane boundary layer from offshore to coastal counties during hurricane landfall. Concurrent airborne flux observations will be made with new P3 airborne turbulence instrumentation to asses the variability of air-sea fluxes in the coastal environment of landfalling hurricanes. This phase will focus on examination of the coastal air-sea processes that affect the complex interaction between the evolving coastal surface wind field and storm surge as hurricanes make landfall. We specifically address the task of providing initial and validation data sets on observed subsurface ocean structure, surface wind and wave fields and boundary layer structure for the evolving new-generation coupled hurricane intensity prediction models, specifically HWRF.

Four existing stationary weather observing platforms in coastal Alabama and Mississippi will be extended into a network of 27 sites in Alabama’s 2 coastal counties and 3 additional counties to the east, north of the Florida Panhandle. Each site will record and automatically transmit data for archiving and real-time display and dissemination (via MADIS). Data recorded include standard meteorological variables at 2 and 10 m heights, in addition to rainfall, atmospheric radiation, and soil properties. Installation of the 23 new sites commenced in February 2007. Construction of a website displaying station locations and real-time data commenced during that same month. This site will also provide station meta data and archived data. All weather stations and the website will be up and running before the commencement of the 2007 hurricane season.

A state-of-the-art high performance computing cluster will be installed at the Center before the start of the 2007 season. Model testing and evaluation will begin at that point using past season storms in addition to 2007 season cases. Simultaneously, real-case and idealized landfall model simulations will be performed in research mode.

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