Accomplishments of NOAA's Airborne Hurricane Field Program and a Broader Future Approach to Forecast Improvement

Jonathan Zawislak, Robert F. Rogers, Sim D. Aberson, Ghassan J. Alaka, George R. Alvey, Altug Aksoy, Lisa Bucci, Joseph Cione, Neal Dorst, Jason Dunion, Michael Fischer, John Gamache, Sundararaman Gopalakrishnan, Andrew Hazelton, Heather M. Holbach, John Kaplan, Hua Leighton, Frank Marks, Shirley T. Murillo, Paul ReasorKelly Ryan, Kathryn Sellwood, Jason A. Sippel, Jun A. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Since 2005, NOAA has conducted the annual Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX), led by scientists from the Hurricane Research Division at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. They partner with NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center, who maintain and operate the WP-3D and Gulfstream IV-SP (G-IV) Hurricane Hunter aircraft, and NCEP's National Hurricane Center and Environmental Modeling Center, who task airborne missions to gather data used by forecasters for analysis and forecasting and for ingest into operational numerical weather prediction models. The goal of IFEX is to improve tropical cyclone (TC) forecasts using an integrated approach of analyzing observations from aircraft, initializing and evaluating forecast models with those observations, and developing new airborne instrumentation and observing strategies targeted at filling observing gaps and maximizing the data's impact in model forecasts. This summary article not only highlights recent IFEX contributions toward improved TC understanding and prediction, but also reflects more broadly on the accomplishments of the program during the 16 years of its existence. It describes how IFEX addresses high-priority forecast challenges, summarizes recent collaborations, describes advancements in observing systems monitoring structure and intensity, as well as in assimilation of aircraft data into operational models, and emphasizes key advances in understanding of TC processes, particularly those that lead to rapid intensification. The article concludes by laying the foundation for the next generation of IFEX as it broadens its scope to all TC hazards, particularly rainfall, storm-surge inundation, and tornadoes, that have gained notoriety during the last few years after several devastating landfalling TCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E311-E338
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Aircraft observations
  • Field experiments
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Model initialization
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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