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New Satellite Data Helping Navy Forecasters Do a Better Job

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120202-06

By George Lammons, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Public Affairs

NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) Chief of Staff, speaking at the American Meteorological Society (AMS) annual meeting in New Orleans, Jan. 24, said new atmospheric and ocean satellite systems and their data are helping the Navy provide new and better tools for warfighters.

Capt. Jim Pettigrew spoke on a panel at AMS with his counterparts from the National Weather Service and the U.S. Air Force about how NMOC will use new satellite systems and how NMOC plans to accommodate the large amount of new data that these systems generate.

NMOC, he said, is focused on providing U.S. and allied forces with a tactical advantage by making sure they know how to exploit environmental conditions better and faster than opposing forces. With additional environmental data, forecasters have a better picture of environmental conditions and are able to predict further into the future.

"The purpose is to ensure our operating forces have the home field advantage, even in away games," Pettigrew said, using a sports metaphor.

NMOC uses a strategy, called Battlespace on Demand consisting of four tiers, that starts with environmental data collection and ends with recommendations on force allocation and force employment, based on predicted environmental conditions. Forecasts are mapped with other intelligence data to operational theaters to provide operational recommendations.

For instance, sea state thresholds of pirate vessels and their behaviors, combined with forecast sea state and weather conditions as well as common ship routes, help U.S. and allied navies' pirate interdiction efforts.

With additional satellites providing higher resolution environmental data, NMOC forecasters can provide better recommendations to keep the fleet safe and effective.

Pettigrew said the command processes the data in its atmospheric and ocean production centers, Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) and the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO) respectively.

FNMOC recently added more than 14,000 square feet to its new and upgraded computer operations center to help accommodate the additional data. NAVO uses the Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., one of five Defense Department supercomputer centers. NMOC uses the data for complex atmospheric and ocean models that run on those supercomputers.

"We have a need for high-accuracy data to initialize the models," Pettigrew said.

The future includes model ensembles that quantify and forecast uncertainty, improved forecast accuracy, and advancements in coupled atmospheric and ocean models. These all will be further enabled by this new satellite data.

NMOC partnerships with the National Weather Service and the U.S. Air Force serve as force multipliers to help move closer to that future.

So for the Navy, Pettigrew said, the additional satellite data is used, welcomed and important.

"We are working with our partners in the research and development community to provide an increased capability built on future atmospheric and ocean models. The data coming from these new satellite systems will move us down that road," Pettigrew said.

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