From D-Day to Drones, on Knowing What Observations are Necessary for Marine Operational Forecasting and on the Capacity Building Role of Academia in Research to Operations

  • Leonard J. Pietrafesa
  • Paul T. Gayes
  • Shaowu Bao
  • Hongyuan Zhang
  • Thomas Mullikin
  • Earle E. Buckley
  • Tingzhuang Yan
Keywords: observations, operational forecasting, atmospheric forecasting, marine forecasting, weather, climate


Deciding when the United States (U.S.) and its Allies would launch the World War II (WWII) D-Day invasion of the Normandy beach of France, in 1944, was an operational nightmare. Observations were scant and forecasting hourly to daily atmospheric storm conditions, visibility, and oceanic currents and waves in the English Channel were all highly problematic, at best. Finally, on June 6th, the decision was made that there could be a break in the atmospheric and oceanic weather allowing for the storming of the Normandy beach in France and the invasion of Europe. At that time, observational atmospheric and oceanic data were not comprehensively available and decisions had to be made quite literally, on the fly. Following the end of WWII in June 1945, the U.S. Congress decided that a federal agency focused on gathering more and better atmospheric and oceanic state variable data was needed to undergird more advanced operational forecasting over periods of hours to days to weeks. Thus in 1946, the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) was created to provide research monies to universities across the U.S. to train the next generation of scientific experts which would lead to greatly improved atmospheric and oceanic operational forecasting or so it was assumed. The two communities of environmental sciences, the atmospheric or dry contingent, and the ocean sciences or wet contingent went separate ways with their newly gained resources from ONR and the subsequent history of “weather” forecasting in the U.S. has sputtered along but has never been merged either observationally nor from a numerical modeling perspective nor even culturally amongst the atmospheric and oceanic communities. This manuscript describes the history of operational weather forecasting in the U.S. The pitfalls, several failed attempts by academia to address the challenges, the role that universities can play in serving the research needed to improve NWS forecasting and several new federal agency and university programs that are attempting to address national needs in operational forecasting.


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How to Cite
Pietrafesa, L. J., Gayes, P. T., Bao, S., Zhang, H., Mullikin, T., Buckley, E. E., & Yan, T. (2024). From D-Day to Drones, on Knowing What Observations are Necessary for Marine Operational Forecasting and on the Capacity Building Role of Academia in Research to Operations. European Journal of Science, Innovation and Technology, 4(3), 245-279. Retrieved from