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Operational Impact of QuikSCAT Winds at the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center

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  • 1 STG, Inc., and NOAA/NESDIS/ORA, Camp Springs, Maryland
  • | 2 NOAA/NWS/NCEP/OPC, Camp Springs, Maryland
  • | 3 NOAA/NESDIS/ORA, Camp Springs, Maryland
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Abstract

The NASA Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) has revolutionized the analysis and short-term forecasting of winds over the oceans at the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center (OPC). The success of QuikSCAT in OPC operations is due to the wide 1800-km swath width, large retrievable wind speed range (0 to in excess of 30 m s−1), ability to view QuikSCAT winds in a comprehensive form in operational workstations, and reliable near-real-time delivery of data. Prior to QuikSCAT, marine forecasters at the OPC made warning and forecast decisions over vast ocean areas based on a limited number of conventional observations or on the satellite presentation of a storm system. Today, QuikSCAT winds are a heavily used tool by OPC forecasters. Approximately 10% of all short-term wind warning decisions by the OPC are based on QuikSCAT winds. When QuikSCAT is available, 50%–68% of all weather features on OPC surface analyses are placed using QuikSCAT. QuikSCAT is the first remote sensing instrument that can consistently distinguish extreme hurricane force conditions from less dangerous storm force conditions in extratropical cyclones. During each winter season (October–April) from 2001 to 2004, 15–23 extratropical cyclones reached hurricane force intensity over both the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. Due to QuikSCAT, OPC forecasters are now more likely to anticipate the onset of hurricane force conditions. QuikSCAT has also revealed significant wind speed gradients in the vicinity of strong sea surface temperature (SST) differences near the Gulf Stream and shelfbreak front of the western North Atlantic. These wind speed gradients are most likely due to changes in low-level stability of the boundary layer across the SST gradients. OPC forecasters now use a variety of numerical guidance based tools to help predict boundary layer stability and the resultant near-surface winds.

Corresponding author address: Joan M. Von Ahn, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: joan.vonahn@noaa.gov

Abstract

The NASA Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) has revolutionized the analysis and short-term forecasting of winds over the oceans at the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center (OPC). The success of QuikSCAT in OPC operations is due to the wide 1800-km swath width, large retrievable wind speed range (0 to in excess of 30 m s−1), ability to view QuikSCAT winds in a comprehensive form in operational workstations, and reliable near-real-time delivery of data. Prior to QuikSCAT, marine forecasters at the OPC made warning and forecast decisions over vast ocean areas based on a limited number of conventional observations or on the satellite presentation of a storm system. Today, QuikSCAT winds are a heavily used tool by OPC forecasters. Approximately 10% of all short-term wind warning decisions by the OPC are based on QuikSCAT winds. When QuikSCAT is available, 50%–68% of all weather features on OPC surface analyses are placed using QuikSCAT. QuikSCAT is the first remote sensing instrument that can consistently distinguish extreme hurricane force conditions from less dangerous storm force conditions in extratropical cyclones. During each winter season (October–April) from 2001 to 2004, 15–23 extratropical cyclones reached hurricane force intensity over both the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. Due to QuikSCAT, OPC forecasters are now more likely to anticipate the onset of hurricane force conditions. QuikSCAT has also revealed significant wind speed gradients in the vicinity of strong sea surface temperature (SST) differences near the Gulf Stream and shelfbreak front of the western North Atlantic. These wind speed gradients are most likely due to changes in low-level stability of the boundary layer across the SST gradients. OPC forecasters now use a variety of numerical guidance based tools to help predict boundary layer stability and the resultant near-surface winds.

Corresponding author address: Joan M. Von Ahn, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: joan.vonahn@noaa.gov

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