During a test flight on 31 July, the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) released a dropwindsonde and transmitted the wind, pressure, temperature, and humidity data to the ground and around the world via the Global Telecommunications System. Since the advent of dropsondes in the 1940s, only data from a few of the many observations could be transmitted, mainly due to bandwidth limits of the aircraft over the open ocean. Data have been sent in a text format known as TEMP DROP, which provided only a small fraction of the total data obtained. The current dropwindsonde can take measurements four times every second as it falls to the ground.
As communications increased, more data could be sent off the plane, and a format known as BUFR (Binary Universal Form for the Representation of meteorological data) was used. In the old TEMP DROP format, only 17 observations could be sent for this test dropwindsonde, but hundreds of observations can now be seen by forecasters to see the important features in a hurricane, and can be used by models to improve forecasts.
Special thanks to Sonia Otero of HRD, John Hill and Mike Holmes of AOC, and our partners at the NCAR Earth Observing Laboratory who made this all possible.