The impact of aircraft reconnaissance on tropical cyclone (TC) observation and forecasting is assessed. The motivation for this assessment is the termination of Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft reconnaissance in the northwest Pacific in 1987 and the suggestion by some DOD officials that it may also be technically feasible to greatly reduce or similarly discontinue DOD aircraft reconnaissance in the Atlantic. In response thereto, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Committee on Tropical Meteorology and Tropical Cyclones recommended that a specialized ad hoc group be formed to study the technical aspects of this issue. The resulting study presented here focuses on the issue of the extent to which reliable TC warnings can be continued along the United States hurricane-vulnerable coastline without observations from aerial reconnaissance and summarizes relevant information contained in recent studies prompted by the termination of reconnaissance in the western North Pacific. Primary attention is given to the technical and meteorological aspects of this question and economic and societal aspects receive only brief attention.
Although it is recognized that weather satellites are absolutely essential for tropical cyclone observation on a global scale, it is found that independent satellite measurements of position, intensity, outer wind distribution, and ambient steering current of tropical cyclones are sometimes degraded from what can be provided by aircraft over a limited but operationally significant area. Such degraded observational data can significantly impact forecasts of these quantities.
*Dept. of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523
+Science Applications International Corporation, 6855 S.W. 104 St., Miami, FL33156
**Naval Oceanographic and Atmospheric Research Laboratory, Atmospheric Directorate, Airport Road, Monterey, CA 93943-5006