Cantwell: U.S. Weather Plane Will Provide Washington with Earlier, More Accurate Winter Storm Warnings

 TOPPENISH, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that a highly specialized research aircraft will be on patrol over the North Pacific Ocean to enhance winter storm forecasts for Washington. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) dispatched the plane to Yokota Air Force Base in Japan from now through February. The plane is tasked by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction – a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service – with gathering data ‘upstream’ of winter storms. Since most of Washington’s weather originates in the western Pacific, this data will give the National Weather Service a better picture of the storm and weather systems that eventually head toward Washington. The result will be more accurate long-term forecasts for winter storms that threaten Washington state and much of the North American continent.

“Especially during this wet La Niña winter season, more accurate data on storms gathering off our coast is critical to our safety and livelihoods,” Senator Cantwell said.  “Washington state is at the frontline of dangerous storms, and this plane’s high-tech capabilities will provide important supplemental data about any dangers approaching us. This winter season, residents, businesses and property are better protected with the help of this plane, which significantly improves forecasting of winter storms.”

The NOAA plane will collect information such as wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature, and humidity and send the data via satellite to global operational weather forecasting centers where it will be analyzed by sophisticated computer forecast models.


Cantwell, Chair of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, has long advocated for a better weather radar system to provide Washington state communities with more accurate information about severe weather and storms that could impact local economies, businesses, homes, and safety. She has led the effort to improve weather forecasting in the Pacific Northwest. In 2007, she obtained funds to complete a study, released in May 2009, which demonstrated the gap in Washington state’s weather radar coverage.  She secured full funding for this radar system through a $2 million down payment in the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill, and $7 million included in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act. In June of last year, Cantwell announced that Washington state’s first coastal Doppler radar will be deployed in September 2011 – a year earlier than originally anticipated.

For more information on the aircraft dispatched to Japan, see today’s press release from NOAA.