December 12, 2011
Using wind and wave satellite data for marine forecasts
Experts from EUMETSAT, the OSI SAF, NOAA, Meteo-France, and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute have delivered a course on the use of satellite wind and wave data for marine and high seas forecasting.
Ocean winds and waves can be measured from space, with this data weather forecasters can more closely monitor severe situations and issue better warnings for marine operations. Also, this information is used in computer models to predict the passage of storms and areas of high waves. These data come from the ASCAT instrument on MetOp and the Jason and Envisat satellites.
Training course, December 2011
Using the satellite data, course participants monitored the development of the storm that hit Scotland on December 9. They also worked on cases from their own operational areas in Europe — from the Atlantic and Polar seas to the Mediterranean.
Mark Higgins, EUMETSAT trainer, said: “This was the first time some of the forecasters have seen small-scale, coastal weather patterns that affect people working at sea, close to the coast. In the past they knew these effects existed but didn’t have the observations to properly assess their dynamics.”
The course, in Oostende, Belgium from 5-9 December, was tailored to European forecasters, and 15 students from several EUMETSAT member and cooperating states (UK, Iceland, Turkey, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Germany and Greece) took part. This was the first course of its kind for European forecasters.
The aims of the course were to develop skills in the operational use of the altimeter and scatterometer data and to raise awareness of the usefulness and availability of ASCAT, OSCAT and OSTM/Jason2 data for marine weather forecasting in Europe.
These goals were addressed by helping the students to synthesise scatterometer and altimeter information in developing analysis of a given weather situation. In particular, they practiced the use of this information to evaluate NWP model output and in understanding the added value of this satellite information in that context. Better marine forecasts and sea state forecasts ultimately improve maritime safety.
The course coincided with the tenth anniversary of the launch of Jason-1, the predecessor of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM/Jason2). OSTM/Jason2 aims to measure the global sea surface height to an accuracy of a few centimetres every 10 days, to determine ocean circulation and mean sea level trend, in support of weather forecasting, climate monitoring and operational oceanography. Wind speed and significant wave height from OSTM was used in the marine forecasters course to verify wave model output over the Mediterranean, where the modelling of fetch effects is particularly complex.
Jason-1 was launched on 7 December 2001 and Jason-2 was launched on 20 June 2008, overlapping with the Jason-1 mission to secure the continuity of high accuracy satellite altimetry observations. It is anticipated that Jason-3 will be launched in 2014.
Participants also looked at data from the Indian satellite Oceansat-2, which will be available soon to users in Europe.
The training was hosted by the IODE (International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange programme) and used the EUMETrain ePort (Figure 2); the OSI SAF KNMI scatterometer page (Figure 1) and N-AWIPS (National Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) a forecasters’ workstation tool for integrated information display used by the NOAA forecasting centres.