tech track papers


Satellite-based Global Wind Profiling to Improve Numerical Weather Prediction

As numerical weather prediction (NWP) centers (e.g. NOAA-NCEP, NRL-COAMPS, ECMWF etc.) improve weather modeling through better understanding of atmospheric physics, modeling techniques, and more computing power, the need for additional initial-condition wind profile observations has become the limiting factor in forecast performance.  On Earth, surface-launched balloon radiosonde measurements provide the most forecast model impact per observation, but there are vast regions over the oceans and Southern Hemisphere where this type of upper-air wind data is missing or sparse, thus wind observations are still the greatest unmet need in weather forecasting.

To help address the data insufficiency issue, Ball Aerospace has developed an instrument called the Optical Autocovariance Wind Lidar (OAWL), a Doppler Wind Lidar (DWL) to remotely measure wind profiles from space.  A recent prototype of the instrument was validated in aircraft-based testing on the NASA WB-57 jet thus providing basis for the space-based system performance.  Ball has also designed a version of OAWL for space, building on the heritage of the aircraft demonstrator and the highly successful LIDAR on the CALIPSO mission which is still meeting mission requirements after more than 10 years on orbit.

In this paper, we will briefly review the history of DWL system development for space in both the US and in Europe and describe the current OAWL system measurement approach including the airborne OAWL demonstration/validation results.  Finally we will describe several OAWL mission concepts (for Earth or for Mars) and review the predicted impact of global OAWL measurements on weather forecasting.