Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) is a targeted campaign that complements other sources of observational data, forming part of a diverse observing system. AR Recon 2021 operated for ten weeks from January 13 to March 22, with 29.5 Intensive Observation Periods (IOPs), 45 flights and 1142 successful dropsondes deployed in the northeast Pacific. With the availability of two WC-130J aircraft operated by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53 WRS), Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and one National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) G-IVSP aircraft, six sequences were accomplished, in which the same synoptic system was sampled over several days.
The principal aim was to gather observations to improve forecasts of landfalling atmospheric rivers on the U.S. West Coast. Sampling of other meteorological phenomena forecast to have downstream impacts over the U.S. was also considered. Alongside forecast improvement, observations were also gathered to address important scientific research questions, as part of a Research and Operations Partnership.
Targeted dropsonde observations were focused on essential atmospheric structures, primarily atmospheric rivers. Adjoint and ensemble sensitivities, mainly focusing on predictions of U.S. West Coast precipitation, provided complementary information on locations where additional observations may help to reduce the forecast uncertainty. Additionally, Airborne Radio Occultation (ARO) and tail radar were active during some flights, 30 drifting buoys were distributed, and 111 radiosondes were launched from four locations in California. Dropsonde, radiosonde and buoy data were available for assimilation in real-time into operational forecast models. Future work is planned to examine the impact of AR Recon 2021 data on model forecasts.