DISCUSSION: All over the world every day, there are a multitude of different factors which go into how various numerical model forecasts get generated. All the way from surface observations, to weather balloons, and on to aircraft data, there is a plethora of atmospheric data which is pumped into weather forecast models to help generate more realistic and near-term and longer-term forecast output. This is a result of the fact that, the more data and the greater the density of various data which being injected into the initial conditions of a numerical forecast model, the more accurate the forecast output will typically be.
The other major data component which is included as part of making projections with output from numerical forecast models which most people do not think about are those data resources which emanate from ocean-going ships. The primary data source which is most commonly referred to as “ship track” has to do with shipping vessels reporting atmospheric state-variables such as temperature, pressure, moisture, wind direction, and wind speed to archiving data systems over land. Moreover, since there is far more ocean on planet Earth than there is land, this leads to there ultimately being a substantial amount of data which comes in from “ship tracks.”
As shown in the graphic above (courtesy of Meteorologist Zack Labe from University of California-Irvine), you can clearly see how widely dispersed the shipping tracks were between 2004 and 2005 alone across the Northern Hemisphere. However, in looking to the Southern Hemisphere, you can see how there were substantially fewer shipping tracks archived during that 1-year period. Hence, it goes without saying that there is far much more shipping tracks data which is fed into both regional, synoptic, and global scale numerical forecast models across the Northern Hemisphere. This is also not surprising since most of the people which live on Earth preside within the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, it just goes to show how shipping tracks can tell someone a lot more than “meets the eye.”
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: There is no debate whatsoever that meteorological research has come quite a long way over the past 40 to 50 + years since the start of the modern remote sensing era. Having said that, there are still many mysteries concerning various details of the atmosphere and its many phenomena it creates that remain unknown (and/or possibly undetected) to atmospheric scientists around the world. One such example of an atmospheric phenomenon which remains somewhat alluring to atmospheric scientists around the world are gravity waves observed across the cloud-top expanse of intense tropical cyclones.
The primary reason for why gravity waves emanating from the inner cores of intense tropical cyclones have remained mysterious until more recent years (i.e., years since late 2016 when the GOES-16 or GOES-East satellite imager was launched into orbit) is due to the fine-scale at which this phenomenon occurs in real life. More specifically, prior to the years in which the GOES-East satellite imager was in active status, such a fine-scale atmospheric cloud-based phenomenon was nearly impossible to ever observe in real-time and study to any legitimate extent. However, with the advent of the GOES-16 satellite imager as well as its Western Pacific counterpart by way of the Himawari-8 satellite imager, atmospheric scientists have completely changed the game in terms of the high resolution at which atmospheric features can now be studied.
In getting to intense tropical cyclone-based gravity wave formation (one such example of which is captured above in association with Super Typhoon Meranti which occurred back in September 2016 over in the Western Pacific Ocean), such gravity waves which effectively look like “ripples in a pond” which emerge from the center of intense tropical cyclones form as a result of intense inner to outer pressure gradients. To be more precise, as a given tropical cyclone intensifies rapidly, there is a corresponding rapid change in pressure from the inner to outer parts of a tropical cyclone. This increasingly rapid change in atmospheric pressure from the center outwards generates a wave-like response which realizes in the form of gravity waves. Thus, this just goes to show how the current state-of-the-art satellite era has changed the way in which we observe Earth’s atmosphere.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz