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NEWS | Oct. 28, 2022

New Satellite Data Aids DOD’s Typhoon Forecasters

By Public Affairs, Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Data from two novel satellite instruments have recently been made available to forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) to evaluate the instruments’ ability to aid in the analysis and prediction of tropical cyclones, Oct. 28.
 
The Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems (TEMPEST) and Compact Ocean Wind Vector Radiometer (COWVR) are microwave radiometers built by the NASA Jet Propulsion, sponsored by the U.S. Space Force through the Space Test Program.
 
“Space-based weather sensing has been a critical capability in executing JTWC’s mission since the first satellites were launched over 60 years ago." said CDR Dom DiMaggio, Commanding Officer, Joint Typhoon Warning Center. "As new technologies come online, it is imperative that the DOD makes best use of these emerging capabilities to gain any advantage possible in protecting our assets and missions."
 
Mounted to the International Space Station, these instruments are significantly smaller and cheaper than their predecessors. They are now demonstrating new and low-cost but effective technologies for observing the fiercest storms on Earth. 
 
JTWC was selected as an early adopter to evaluate the new sensors, a natural fit given the scope and significance of their mission. JTWC forecasts and issues warnings for nearly 85% of all tropical cyclone activity around the globe, protecting DoD and other government agency personnel operating in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
 
“At any given time across the broad area we monitor, there is almost always a tropical cyclone present, providing ample opportunity to put these new data to the test,” said Dr. Levi Cowan, JTWC’s Senior Scientist. So far this year, JTWC has issued over 700 tropical cyclone warnings and conducted over 6,600 individual satellite analyses on 54 tropical cyclones.
 
Typhoon forecasters at JTWC are provided colorized images of COWVR and TEMPEST data by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory whenever the ISS flies over an area of interest. These images reveal the structure of thunderstorms, rain bands, and water vapor both around and inside typhoons, giving forecasters vital information about a storm’s position, intensity, and structure that can significantly improve forecasts.
 
LT Chris Mortenson, one of the command’s typhoon forecasters, said, “We are very happy to have the opportunity to preview the COWVR and TEMPEST data and provide feedback. These systems will join a group of several other microwave sensors utilized by the JTWC, increasing the overall frequency of this invaluable type of data.”
 
With its small team of about 50 US Navy and Air Force active duty and civilian meteorologists and scientists, and with the help of many mission partners, JTWC maintains the agility necessary to integrate emerging technologies and data sources, leveraging them to maximize environmental intelligence, maneuverability advantage, and safety for U.S. warfighters.
 
The Director of JTWC, Mr. Brian Strahl, summarized the significance of this collaboration: “Demonstrating the efficacy and impact of new technologies such as COWVR and TEMPEST helps pave the way for future sensing strategies in which constellations of more affordable instruments can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of single legacy satellite system. Having more eyes in the sky to track tropical cyclones as they rapidly develop is crucial to providing decision makers with timely and accurate warnings to protect our nation’s most valuable assets while carrying out their critical missions.”
 
The mission of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is to enable effective and efficient Fleet and Joint Force operations through provision of tropical cyclone forecasts, warnings, and decision support to U.S. assets in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. JTWC is located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is a subordinate command of the Navy’s Fleet Weather Center in San Diego, California.
 
U.S. Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command directs and oversees more than 2,500 globally-distributed military and civilian personnel who collect, process and exploit environmental information to assist Fleet and Joint Commanders in all warfare areas to make better decisions, based on assured environmental information, faster than the adversary
 
Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command | 1100 Balch Blvd. | Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529