Investigating NUCAPS Skill in Profiling Saharan Dust for Near-Real-Time Forecasting

Arunas Kuciauskas, Anthony Reale, Rebekah Esmaili, Bomin Sun, Nicholas R. Nalli, Vernon R. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Dust outflows off Northwest Africa often propagate westward across the North Tropical Atlantic Basin (NTAB) into the greater Caribbean and US. From a health perspective, weather forecasters in these regions often monitor hazardous air quality associated with this dust. However, forecasters can be constrained by sparse data observations upwind over the Atlantic of the impacted populated areas. Global satellite sounding retrievals can potentially augment and enhance the operational forecasting toolkit for monitoring Saharan dust episodes. The focus of this paper was to examine the skill of the NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPS) temperature and water vapor profiles within the dust and non-dust conditions during the March 2019 NOAA Aerosols and Ocean Science Expedition (AEROSE). During this time, the NOAA Ron Brown research ship launched radiosondes to coincide with satellite overpasses that served as independent ground truth data for evaluating NUCAPS. Compared to RAOBs from the Ron Brown, the SNPP and NOAA-20 NUCAPS-derived soundings showed skill in profiling atmospheric conditions supporting Saharan dust monitoring. Outside of dust regions, the NOAA-20 NUCAPS surface temperature bias peaks at 2.0 K; the surface water vapor bias is minimal (~1000 hPa), with a small cold bias that peaks at −50% between 742 and 790 hPa. Corresponding temperature RMS values are less than 2.0 K; water vapor RMS values are generally below 70%. Within the dust regions, NOAA-20 NUCAPS temperature soundings show a cold bias peak of 2.6 K at 918 hPa and 113% of a moist bias peak at the same level. Corresponding temperature RMS values maximize at 3.5 K at 945 hPa; the water vapor RMS shows a peak value of 106% at the same level. Weather forecasters can apply NUCAPS across the NTAB in issuing timely and accurate hazardous air quality warnings and visibility alerts to health officials and the general public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4261
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • ATMS sounders
  • CrIS
  • RAOB
  • dust aerosol optical depth
  • hyperspectral
  • radiosondes
  • rawinsondes
  • research to operations
  • satellite soundings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating NUCAPS Skill in Profiling Saharan Dust for Near-Real-Time Forecasting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this