How Do Ship Tracks Impact Regional And Global Weather Forecasts?

| November 26, 2018 @ 2:30 pm


DISCUSSION: All over the world every day, there are a multitude of different factors which go into how various numerical model forecasts get generated. All the way from surface observations, to weather balloons, and on to aircraft data, there is a plethora of atmospheric data which is pumped into weather forecast models to help generate more realistic and near-term and longer-term forecast output. This is a result of the fact that, the more data and the greater the density of various data which being injected into the initial conditions of a numerical forecast model, the more accurate the forecast output will typically be.

The other major data component which is included as part of making projections with output from numerical forecast models which most people do not think about are those data resources which emanate from ocean-going ships. The primary data source which is most commonly referred to as “ship track” has to do with shipping vessels reporting atmospheric state-variables such as temperature, pressure, moisture, wind direction, and wind speed to archiving data systems over land. Moreover, since there is far more ocean on planet Earth than there is land, this leads to there ultimately being a substantial amount of data which comes in from “ship tracks.”

As shown in the graphic above (courtesy of Meteorologist Zack Labe from University of California-Irvine), you can clearly see how widely dispersed the shipping tracks were between 2004 and 2005 alone across the Northern Hemisphere. However, in looking to the Southern Hemisphere, you can see how there were substantially fewer shipping tracks archived during that 1-year period. Hence, it goes without saying that there is far much more shipping tracks data which is fed into both regional, synoptic, and global scale numerical forecast models across the Northern Hemisphere. This is also not surprising since most of the people which live on Earth preside within the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, it just goes to show how shipping tracks can tell someone a lot more than “meets the eye.”

To learn more about other interesting weather research topics, be sure to click here!

© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz

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