Lidia Cucurull briefed the NOAA Technology Maturation Program annual review on three projects that she leads. The objective of the program is to identify areas where small investments could accelerate the use of emerging technologies in operations, such as in improving weather forecasts. The ultimate goal is to increase the options available to NOAA mission planners, leading to lower cost, higher performance, and faster time to data availability for space-based observing systems.
The first project is 3-D Winds with Track and European Space Agency (ESA) Aeolus. Knowing the wind speed and direction is critical for weather forecasting. The challenge is not just at the ground level, but throughout the whole atmosphere, at all altitudes worldwide. NOAA has a lot of wind measurements on the ground, and upper-air wind velocity can be inferred from satellites watching cloud motion. Now we have a new satellite, Aeolus, that can measure wind speed in clear air. This effort helps NOAA learn how to get the maximum possible value from this data. Preliminary results show large improvement in wind forecasts in the Northern Hemisphere and in the Tropics.
The second project is Radio Occultation (RO) Data Exploitation. One of the newest types of observation obtained by satellites is RO, a technique of observing how radio waves from GPS satellites behave as they go through Earth’s atmosphere. NOAA has found RO data to be very useful, but our understanding of the potential is still limited. This effort explores novel approaches to use these very important data. Specifically, the question of how to get useful RO data in the very lowest layers in the atmosphere, an area previously found to be too difficult. If successful, NOAA and our partners will be able to derive significantly more value from these data. Results from this project led to the operational assimilation of these data into NOAA forecasts models starting 27 May, 2020. Improvements to the data and their assimilation are ongoing.
The third project, Assessment of Value and Impact: OSSE for GEO Hyperspectral IR, concerns the Geostational HyperSpectral Sounder (Geo-HSS), specifically investigating the value to NOAA of hosting a hyperspectral infrared sounder over the GOES-East domain. The sounder would provide more frequent observations of temperature and moisture over the continental US than is currently available. The focus of the project is to simulate these observations and assess their impact on global, regional, and hurricane numerical models, and products that support nowcasting of extreme weather events. Results show improvements to global model forecasts from a single hyperspectral instrument, even if the observations taken every 4 km are thinned to every 140 km. The improvement was especially seen in temperature forecasts over North American and in wind forecasts in the Tropics. Similar studies with hurricane models are ongoing.