Mini-Dropwindsonde data from Global Hawk used in forecast models for the first time during Hurricane Franklin

For the first time, data from mini-dropwindsondes released by the Global Hawk aircraft were used by NOAA Global Forecast System to predict where Franklin might track, how strong it would get, and other weather around the globe.  A total of 48 mini-dropsondes were released by the Global Hawk on the morning and afternoon of 9 August in the Gulf of Mexico in the usually data sparse Bay of Campeche.  The mission tasked by the NASA East Pacific Origins and Characteristics of Hurricanes (EPOCH) Project.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Global Hawk aircraft.


The high-altitude, unmanned Global Hawk has been used since 2012 to gather data in and around hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The data have previously been used in hurricane models like the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecast (HWRF) and the U. S. Navy’s Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System for Tropical Cyclones (COAMPS-TC) models, and global models like the Integrated Forecast Model of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the Unified Model of the United Kingdom MetOffice, and the Navy Global Environmental Model.  The Hurricane Franklin flight marks a milestone in getting the data from the new mini-dropsondes into the suite of NOAA weather prediction models and was made possible through support from the NOAA UAS Program and scientists at HRD and the University of Miami/CIMAS who carried out the real-time quality controlling of the Global Hawk dropwindsonde data and ensured that it was made available at NOAA and other modeling centers around the world..


Top:  Wind velocity analysis (shaded and grey arrows) from the NOAA P3 Doppler Radar from its flight into Hurricane Franklin on 9 August, and dropwindsonde observations from the Global Hawk (black) from its flight above Franklin at the same time.  The pennants show wind speed of 25 m/s, the long barbs show wind speed of 5 m/s, and the short barbs represent wind speed of 2.5 m/s;  the posts show the wind direction (toward the circle).  The temperature (in Celsius) is shown above and left of the circle; the relative humidity (%) is shown below and left of the circle.  The top image shows the data at 1 km above the ocean surface; the bottom image shows the data at 16.5 km above the ocean surface.