A new, satellite-based, 8-hr. weather forecast prototype covering remote areas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is available to industry as a research tool on the website for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The tool, developed by NCAR with funding from NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, uses satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s East and West Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), along with computer weather models, to produce animated maps of storms over much of the world’s oceans. The forecasts are updated every 3 hr.

With additional funding, NCAR says the prototype could become an operational weather product for airlines either through certification with the U.S. FAA or the World Area Forecast Center, says Cathy Kessinger, NCAR’s lead researcher on the project. Similar products developed by NCAR are used by the FAA to alert pilots and air traffic controllers about storms, turbulence and lightning over the continental U.S.

The prototype is not as comprehensive a tool as what NCAR had envisioned when the program started in 2009. At the time, the project’s goal was to identify and predict rapidly developing storms and turbulence and to send text-based maps and graphical displays of the information to pilots and ground-based controllers in real time. Funding shortfalls, however, limited the project to a forecast tool on the web.

To create those forecasts, Kessinger and her team, which included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, used GOES measurements to identify regions of the atmosphere with high cloud tops and water vapor at high altitudes—conditions that signal the potential for updrafts and powerful storms.

The team then applied fuzzy logic and data fusion techniques, along with object tracking techniques and simulations of wind fields, to predict storm locations at hourly intervals out to 8 hr. Researchers verified the forecasts using radar observations from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite.