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Elizabeth R. Sanabia, Bradford S. Barrett, Peter G. Black, Sue Chen, and James A. Cummings

Abstract

Thousands of aircraft observations of upper-ocean thermal structures have been obtained during hurricane and typhoon research field experiments in recent decades. The results from these experiments suggest a strong correlation between upper-ocean thermal variability and tropical cyclone (TC) intensity change. In response to these results, during the Office of the Federal Coordinator of Meteorology (OFCM) 2011 Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference (IHC), the Working Group for Hurricane and Winter Storms Operations and Research (WG/HWSOR) approved a 3-yr project to demonstrate the usefulness of airborne expendable bathythermographs (AXBTs) in an operational setting. The goal of this project was to initialize and validate coupled TC forecast models and was extended to improve input to statistical intensity forecast models. During the first season of the demonstration project, 109 AXBTs were deployed between 28 July and 28 August 2011. Successes included AXBT deployment from WC-130J aircraft during operational reconnaissance missions tasked by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), real-time onboard and postflight data processing, real-time data transmission to U.S. Navy and NOAA hurricane numerical prediction centers, and near-real-time assimilation of upper-ocean temperature observations into the Naval Research Laboratory Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System-Tropical Cyclones (COAMPS-TC) forecast model. Initial results showed 1) increased model accuracy in upper-ocean temperatures, 2) minor improvements in TC track forecasts, and 3) minor improvements in TC intensity forecasts in both coupled dynamical and statistical models [COAMPS-TC and the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS), respectively].

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