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Winter Storm Reconnaissance (WSR)

About WSR

Each winter season, aircraft reconnaissance observations are taken over data sparse non-land regions in order to improve operational forecasts of high impact weather events over the United States. Through a multi agency effort, reconnaissance missions supported by the Air Force Reserve Command's (AFRC) 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53 WRS) and the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) are coordinated and tasked to collect data over targeted areas where those additional observations are most likely to yield positive impacts on operational model forecasts. The NWS Senior Duty Meteorologist (SDM) plays an integral part in this collaborative process as they are involved in deciding the tasking some missions and are the primary NWS point of contact for routing all mission requests to the Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination, All Hurricanes (CARCAH) unit at NHC.

In the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, data is collected to improve model guidance of nor'easters and their expected impact on the Atlantic Coast States. The SDM works with the The Weather Prediction Center (WPC) to decide if, when, and where a mission will be tasked and data collected. Specifically, WPC identifies which weather events meet the criteria for targeting and then passes these events onto the SDM. Once received, the SDM reviews various objective sensitivity guidance and decides if a tasking will potentially improve model forecasts. If it is determined that a tasking could be helpful, the SDM will pass on all needed information to CARCAH, where downstream flight planning and requirements of the recon mission will be handled.

In the Pacific, data is collected to improve model guidance of atmospheric river events on the West Coast. The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography UCSD and the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC), in consultation with NWS Western Region and the SDM, lead the coordination process for determining which recon missions will be tasked in the Pacific. Once chosen, mission information is sent to the SDM where it is then routed to CARCAH for downstream flight planning.

These groups are represented within the Interagency Council for Advancing Meteorological Services (ICAMS) Winter Season Working Group responsible for coordinating the Winter Season Operations Plan.

CARCAH Plan for the Day
Additional WSR Program Information

Page last modified: 14 February 2024.