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CHIPS Articles: Probabilistic Forecasting: What it is and how it’s changing Fleet decision-making

Probabilistic Forecasting: What it is and how it’s changing Fleet decision-making
By Kaley Turfitt, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command - March 29, 2018
It was a routine deployment for the Strike Group Oceanography Team (SGOT) aboard USS America’s Amphibious Ready Group during its maiden deployment until probabilistic forecasting started showing disturbing weather beginning in October 2017.

USS America’s Meteorology and Oceanography Officer Lt. Cmdr. Zach Moody said, “It’s our team’s job to keep the fleet safe from the ever-changing environment, and the application of the probabilistic model allowed us to do just that by delivering short, mid and long range forecasts across two theaters of responsibility.”

With a thorough understanding of the environment, meteorology and oceanography Sailors deploy with the fleet to provide environmental information and anticipate changes in support of naval operations.

The aerographer’s mate rating was established in 1924 as a dependable source of ocean and weather forecasting for aviation safety. Since the first seven-man AG class of 1925, technology has helped advance the field and enable a community of over 2,500 Sailors and civilians to analyze and predict the impacts of specific conditions on platforms, weapons, sensors and operations.

The latest of these advances is a probabilistic numerical weather prediction (NWP) ensemble model system named the National Unified Operational Prediction Capability (NUOPC). FNMOC in Monterey, Calif., provides NUOPC NWP output to forecasters from Navy’s Global Environmental Model, National Center for Environmental Prediction and the Canadian Meteorological Centre’s global NWP model. All 63 member models begin with slightly altered initial conditions to define the atmospheric outlook and are accompanied by potential error rates to account for uncertainty in a given forecast.

Multi-model ensembles provide more skillful prediction for a five- to fifteen-day period, which allows commanders more informed decision options across space and time.

This emerging forecasting technique proved worthy when the probabilistic model showed a strong mistral coming through the Mediterranean. America’s SGOT was able to advise USS San Diego seven days in advance, who responded by shifting operations around the high winds.

In December, America’s SGOT was again able to predict the onset of shamal winds and as a result, she was able to delay the port visit while the shamal subsided.

The SGOT’s probabilistic model showed a potential for a tropical cyclone in January, which was brought to the commanding officer’s attention seven days prior to expected development. America navigated safely around the weather, and as predicted safely distanced itself from Tropical Depression 01 as issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

AGC Asya Andrews, leading chief petty officer of America’s SGOT, was an instructor in the probabilistic modeling pilot course developed by Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Professional Development Center. Aboard USS America, AGC Andrews gave regular weather updates and probability forecasts to the navigators, battle watch captains, warfare commanders, chief staff officer, commanding officers, and commodore.

“Fleet Numerical’s delivery of the NUOPC product suite proved extremely reliable in forecasting high-impact weather events,” said AGC Andrews. “The models were the most important tool in our team’s toolbox for communicating impacts to operations, and the outcomes were a huge success.”

Long range NUOPC forecasts coupled with the technical expertise of America’s sailors and Marines afforded commanders the decision superiority and battle space awareness to safely and successfully execute all scheduled missions.

Naval Oceanography directs and oversees more than 2,500 globally-distributed military and civilian personnel who collect, process and exploit environmental information to assist Fleet and Joint Commanders in all warfare areas to make better decisions faster than the adversary.

December 31, 2017 -- AGC Asya Andrews reviews model data with her OA Division team onboard USS America (LHA-6) to assess impacts of a developing tropical depression in the South China Sea. As a result of astute forecasting and excellent model performance, the team anticipated the formation of Tropical Depression 01W and provided critical recommendations to the Amphibious Readiness Group that ensured safety of navigation during their transit home from their 5th and 7th Fleet Deployment. (left to right) Sgt. Julio Savinon, AG1 Ian Krueger and AG2 Shon Azubike. Photo By Kaley Turfitt
December 31, 2017 -- AGC Asya Andrews reviews model data with her OA Division team onboard USS America (LHA-6) to assess impacts of a developing tropical depression in the South China Sea. As a result of astute forecasting and excellent model performance, the team anticipated the formation of Tropical Depression 01W and provided critical recommendations to the Amphibious Readiness Group that ensured safety of navigation during their transit home from their 5th and 7th Fleet Deployment. (left to right) Sgt. Julio Savinon, AG1 Ian Krueger and AG2 Shon Azubike. Photo By Kaley Turfitt
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