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Drones going in-depth for weather forecasters

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Posted: Mar 25, 2014 10:27 AM by Meteorologist Josh Eachus
Updated: Mar 25, 2014 7:36 AM
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Topics: weather, forecasting, navy, models, drones

In today's world of weather forecasting, observations and computer models allow meteorologists to provide reasonably accurate weather predictions seven to ten days in advance. Beyond that, climate history along with global wind and water circulations allow for general outlooks that verify at a statistically significant rate.

Numerical computer models that serve as the basis for most extended forecast products are complex data crunchers. With more data, the model can construct a more accurate picture of the atmosphere three, five or even ten days in advance. A large part of the untapped data field currently missing in forecast model runs comes from the oceans, particularly below the surface. This is where submarine drones come into the forecast equation.

According to Patrick Tucker of defenseone.com, the U.S. Navy currently utilizes a fleet of 65 drones to measure water temperature and salinity to depths of about 4,000 feet around the globe. Tucker reports that Navy officials would like to expand the unmanned submarine outfit to 150, and merge the data collection process to include information that would be beneficial to climate researchers and forecasters.

Navy research lab scientist Gregg Jacobs believes that bringing together atmospheric, oceanic and global ice computer models, rather than running them separately, will lead to more consistency and extensions on current forecast range limits. In line with this goal, the Navy has recently partnered its own Navy Ocean Forecast System software with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.

The benefits could be twofold. Data mining sea bots will not only help researchers understand the ocean in greater detail, but potentially add previously unmatched accuracy to forecast time frames weeks to months in advance.

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