Initial WindSat Observations Around Alaska’s Superstorm

Winds around a powerful storm system currently affecting mainly the western portions of Alaska with hurricane force winds, high seas, and blizzard conditions have been detected well by the WindSat instrument over the last couple of days.  The low pressure system, which is crossing the Chukotsk peninsula in eastern Russia, has deepened to as low as 946mb, but shows some recent weakening.  Nevertheless, wind gusts along the western coast of Alaska have been measured in the 70-90 mph range according to the NWS office in Fairbanks, Alaska.

We at SPoRT have been watching this storm and the evolution of winds as displayed by the WindSat instrument over the last couple of days.  This first image (Image 1), with WindSat

Figure 1. WindSat 1940Z 8 Sep 2011

measurements valid at 1940Z indicates wind speeds around the area of low pressure as high as 65 knots, as indicated by the red arrows.  Note in the image that the WindSat measurements appear as the green/yellow/red colors (in order of increasing intensity), while land-based METARs are colored orange, and fixed buoys appear in Cyan.  A gust of 62 knots with a peak of 68 knots occurred at fixed buoy 46035 at 2000Z, giving further credence to the WindSat values.  A wind speed of 35 knots with a gust to 47 knots can be seen at Point Hope on Alaska’s northwest coast in good agreement with nearby WindSat observations.  Also note that the winds helped to indicate the center of low pressure.  Winds around 30 to 40 knots can also be seen in still ice-free areas of the Chukchi sea.

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