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NOAA flights to track winter storm breeding grounds

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Flying out of Hawaii, a NOAA jet will measure winter storm development in the Pacific.

New data could help improve Colorado snow forecasts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Winter weather forecasts for the Colorado high country could get a little better the next few years, after meteorologists have a chance to evaluate data collected over the north Pacific Ocean the next two months.

NOAA said it’s deploying a twin-engine Gulfstream IV-SP aircraft, typically used to study hurricanes, to measure wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature and humidity in areas of the Pacific where North American storms breed and where taking measurements is difficult and data is sparse.

The plane will fly out of Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, where the aircraft will be based through February. The aircraft will reposition to Anchorage, Alaska in March before returning to its home base in Tampa, Fla.

Data from the flights will be monitored by meteorologists aboard the aircraft and relayed as it is collected to NOAA National Weather Service forecasters on the ground, who will use the data in real time to improve forecasts of potentially extreme winter weather events across the entire country and extend those forecasts into the three- to seven-day ranges.

“Data from this special plane will enable forecasters to see whether or not all the ingredients necessary for a strong winter storm are present,” said Jack R. Parrish, flight director and meteorologist with NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

The mission will take the Gulfstream IV north, east and west of Hawaii, and occasionally as far north as Alaska. The flight tracks will be developed by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, part of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“These additional targeted observations, combined with data from other observing systems, enhance the accuracy of the forecasts, especially for high impact winter weather events,” said NCEP Chief Science Officer and NOAA Corps Capt. Barry Choy. “By improving our forecasts, we can alert the public, emergency managers, air carriers, utility companies and others sooner so they can prepare more effectively for significant storms, and save lives, property and money.”

 

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