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TOST Campaign Begins In Pacific

Observations May Lead
To Weather-Related Aviation Safety Products


NASA scientists recently used research aircraft, satellites and an observatory on a Hawaiian volcano to study the atmosphere for better weather predictions and weather-related aviation safety products.

The 2003 Pacific THORPEX Observing Systems Test (TOST) is the first in a series of ocean observation campaigns to support THORPEX, a Global Atmospheric Research Program. Scientists conducted TOST from the Hawaii International Airport, Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu and the Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii.

Langley Research Center scientists provided weather forecasting, data processing and instrument support during TOST.

“Weather measurements over the Pacific Ocean, like the ones in this experiment, are critical for improving the forecast accuracy of high-impact storms that take such a heavy toll on the West Coast of the U.S.,” said John Murray, the TOST coordinator from Langley. “We are also using this data to improve our ability to provide accurate aviation weather information across vast oceanic areas where satellites are the sole source of atmospheric information.”

The 2003 Pacific TOST began in February and ended on March 12.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also conducted the Winter Storms Reconnaissance Program during the same observation period.

NOAA’s G-IV storm chaser aircraft flew beneath the ER-2 high-altitude airplane from Dryden Flight Research Center during the experiment. Instruments on the aircraft measured the clouds and many other atmospheric properties such as temperature and humidity. A GroundWinds lidar (laser radar) at the observatory on the active volcano of Mauna Loa measured winds north of the islands within a range of about 12 miles and up to about nine miles in altitude.

Scientists will use TOST measurements to validate coincident observations with the Earth Observing System’s Terra and Aqua satellites and the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). The spacecraft instruments study the planet’s energy balance, global water cycle and ice masses for a better understanding of the Earth system.

NASA’s Advanced Satellite Aviation-weather Products (ASAP) project, managed by Langley, will use TOST measurements to enhance aviation weather products developed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Weather Research Program.

ASAP scientists also will use the observations to demonstrate weather-related aviation safety applications that will incorporate measurements taken by the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer (GIFTS) — Indian Ocean METOC Imager (IOMI) satellite, scheduled to launch in 2006.

The week before TOST, the ER-2 aircraft conducted experiments at Dryden that simulated observations similar to future ones from the GIFTS-IOMI satellite.

“The Navy’s Twin Otter aircraft also measured wind profiles using the GIFTS wind measurement concept during the ER-2 flights at Dryden,” said Bill Smith Sr., the GIFTS-IOMI principal investigator and chief scientist in Atmospheric Sciences. “This experiment was a very important step in our validation activities for the GIFTS instrument.”

The THORPEX field campaign, also in 2006, will be the primary over-water validation experiment for the GIFTS-IOMI satellite.

Julia Cole works for SAIC in support of Langley’s Atmospheric Sciences Competency.

Photo; caption follows

NASA scientists used a lidar observatory in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, during the 2003 Pacific THORPEX Observing Systems Test (TOST), the first in a series of ocean observation campaigns to support THORPEX, a Global Atmospheric Research Program.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Aerospace Corp.

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