Connor Bruce is a MS student at the School of Meteorology and National Severe Storms Laboratory. This seminar is working toward the needed requirements of his degree. His research focuses on how forecasters use information in their work.
The CopterSonde is a state of the art sampling platform that can be used to advance the field of meteorology in operational forecasting and data collection. One capability of the CopterSonde is that it can collect high-resolution observations in the lowest levels of the atmosphere, including the boundary layer, which traditionally are not well sampled. CopterSonde data were collected during a mixed precipitation event in central Oklahoma in 2019 and during a quasi-linear convective system event in the Mississippi Delta in March of 2022. The primary goal of this study was to determine the operational benefits of these data when used by National Weather Service forecasters. Specifically, the impacts to forecasters’ operational processes and decisions and impacts to their communication of hazards were investigated during a virtual post-event forecast experiment.
Volunteers from four National Weather Service weather forecast offices in the southern region initially participated in a background survey during the winter of 2021. This survey investigated the current suite of boundary layer observations available to them and introduced the CopterSonde platform to them. The survey results suggested that the most anticipated benefits from the addition of CopterSonde data to operational forecasting were the following: improved understanding of numerous weather phenomena (winter and severe weather were highlighted), increased forecaster confidence and situational awareness and enhanced communication of hazard expectations to core partners and public. These anticipated benefits guided the goals and creation of a forecast experiment that followed.
Over 4 days in the fall of 2022, 16 forecasters from the same 4 weather forecast offices completed 2 case studies to investigate the impact of the CopterSonde data on their situational awareness, hazard identification and communications. For each case, CopterSonde data were only provided to half of the forecasters, and follow up focus groups were completed at the end of each day. This activity allowed forecasters to discuss the impacts of the CopterSonde data for both cases.
A situational awareness framework was used to guide thematic coding of data collected during the case studies. One key finding between the two cases was that the CopterSonde data had a demonstrably greater impact on the winter weather case versus the severe weather case. This difference in impact is related to the greater uncertainty in terms of the expected outcome for the winter case. Forecasters were able to report greater levels of situational awareness and higher confidence in their environmental analysis and decisions. During the winter weather case, the probability of detection for forecasters using the CopterSonde data of 0.50 exceeded that of the group without the data by 0.13. During the severe weather case, an outflow boundary and its impacts were identified in the CopterSonde data. This feature went unnoticed to participants that did not have CopterSonde data available. Overall, forecasters were very enthusiastic about the potential for including CopterSonde data in their day-to-day operations to make decisions and communicate expected impacts to their audiences.