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Peter Black
Lee Harrison
Mark Beaubien
Robert Bluth
Roy Woods
Andrew Penny
Robert W. Smith
, and
James D. Doyle


The High-Definition Sounding System (HDSS) is an automated system deploying the expendable digital dropsonde (XDD) designed to measure wind and pressure–temperature–humidity (PTH) profiles, and skin sea surface temperature (SST) within and around tropical cyclones (TCs) and other high-impact weather events needing high sampling density. Three experiments were conducted to validate the XDD.

On two successive days off the California coast, 10 XDDs and 14 Vaisala RD-94s were deployed from the navy’s Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies (CIRPAS) Twin Otter aircraft over offshore buoys. The Twin Otter made spiral descents from 4 km to 60 m at the same descent rate as the sondes. Differences between successive XDD and RD-94 profiles due to true meteorological variability were on the same order as the profile differences between the spirals, XDDs, and RD-94s. XDD SST measured via infrared microradiometer, referred to as infrared skin SST (SSTir), and surface wind measurements were within 0.5°C and 1.5 m s−1, respectively, of buoy and Twin Otter values.

A NASA DC-8 flight launched six XDDs from 12 km between ex-TC Cosme and the Baja California coast. Repeatability was shown with good agreement between features in successive profiles. XDD SSTir measurements from 18° to 28°C and surface winds agreed well with drifting buoy- and satellite-derived estimates.

Excellent agreement was found between PTH and wind profiles measured by XDDs deployed from a NASA WB-57 at 18-km altitude offshore from the Texas coast and NWS radiosonde profiles from Brownsville and Corpus Christi, Texas. Successful XDD profiles were obtained in the clear and within precipitation over an offshore squall line.

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