Wind Forecasts for Rocket and Balloon Launches at the Esrange Space Center
Located around 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, the Esrange Space Center has been extensively used to launch high altitude balloons and rockets to study the dynamics of the upper-levels of the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the Esrange Safety Manual, the atmospheric conditions play an important role in the decision of whether a planned launch will actually take place. One of the most important factors is the wind: there are strict requirements for the maximum allowed wind variation and speed for each vehicle. Hence, an accurate simulation of the atmospheric conditions in the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL), in particular of the wind direction and speed, is vital as erroneous forecasts may lead to the postponing and even cancellation of planned launch events which will inevitably carry financial costs. The goal of this project is to generate wind forecasts for upcoming rocket and balloon launches using a numerical model properly configured for the Arctic region and evaluated in hindcast experiments. An analysis of recorded weather data will also be carried out in order to better understand the atmospheric circulation near Esrange. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is used in this study. In an initial stage of the work the model will be run for a selected number of events in the past for which observational data is available. The goal of these hindcast experiments is to evaluate the model performance and determine the best configuration to be used in the subsequent forecast runs. The high-resolution model data, both from hindcasts and forecast experiments, will also be used to better understand the dynamics of the boundary layer and how it responds to changes in the large-scale atmospheric circulation.