Given the very cold and snowy winter in Alaska this year, it is no doubt that surface observation systems are taking a beating, especially those out in the open ocean. The loss of some of these important data makes operational forecasting a little more difficult. Because of this, the use and importance of remotely sensed data has increased this winter. In fact, Edward Liske, General Forecaster at the Juneau NWS office, has stated that they have been “depending a bit more on the satellite derived wind data that we get this winter for our marine forecasts because our surface marine observations are getting beaten to a pulp”. He goes on to write,
“of the four offshore buoys in the eastern Gulf, one is dead, and two have broken wind sensors. Our main inside channel obs are not much better, Cape Spencer and Sisters Island are down from low battery power, Point Retreat is not reporting wind gusts, Point Bishop is also down and Lincoln Rock was taken out by a combination of hurricane force winds, a high tide, and high waves. That only leaves 3 inside channel sites and an offshore buoy that are working ok.”
Edward was kind enough to include some images that showed this strong outflow event. Figure 1 shows WindSat radiometer winds along parts of the Alaska peninsula together with IR imagery and a few fixed bouys on the 12th Jan 2012 at 0400Z. Figure 2 shows strong outflow winds in the panhandle on the 16th of January around 1530-1600Z.
Figure 1. WindSat Radiometer Winds with GOES West IR imagery and Fixed Buoys (orange) on 12th Jan 2012 0400Z.
Figure 2. WindSat Radiometer Winds together with GOES West IR imagery and Fixed Bouys (light blue) on 16th Jan 2012 ~1530-1600Z.
Edward continued, “this particular outflow event produced storm and gale force winds in most of our inner channel zones and strong winds in our usual outflow areas (Skagway, Taku Inlet, passes east of Yakutat, and Disenchantment Bay). Air temperatures did drop into the single digits so freezing spray was a concern as well.”
This is clearly a great example of the operational benefit of remotely sensed observations when in-situ observations suffer degradation due to harsh conditions.