J32.1 Aviation Weather – 40 years of Trying to Enhance Decision Support

Wednesday, 15 January 2020: 8:30 AM
157C (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Jeffrey S. Tongue, Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood, NY

In my career of nearly four decades, technology and science applications have advanced beyond imagination. From teletypes and wet paper fax machines to having a world of real time meteorological data on a wallet sized cell phone. Today, technology allows anyone to self-interpret meteorological data regardless if education or training. In aviation weather, the same is true as much of the face to face (meteorologist to pilot for example) communication no longer takes place as it had a few decades ago. Today, aviation weather data such as that found on the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) allows for self-diagnose of weather. There are also recorded presentations such as the Federal Aviation Administration's Pre-Duty briefing. While this leveraging of technology provides a valuable service, it limits the ability of decision makers to fully assimilate the total stochastic nature of the atmosphere. It also, limits the meteorologist’s ability to build relationships with users and fully understand their needs.

For example, meteorologists often focus on clouds, visibility and sensible weather when forecasting for aviation users. While these elements are important, surface wind observations and forecasts play a critical role in Air Traffic Management and Flight Safety. Adverse wind is a leading cause of weather-related accidents for general aviation (Code of Federal Regulations Part 91) and second to turbulence for commercial aviation (Code of Federal Regulations part 121). Wind observations are made by the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) at over 900 locations in the United States. ASOS “officially” report at hourly intervals, but also report special observations if weather conditions change rapidly and cross aviation operational thresholds. There are no ASOS discontinuity sensors for wind, even at large airports, which means the single ASOS could be collected up to 5 km from aircraft touchdown. In addition, at many large airports there are wind sensors that are used by air traffic controllers that are at different locations, are sited differently and have different measuring characteristics.

Another concern is the temporal resolution ASOS data. Data are and have been available from ASOS on a one-minute basis since its deployment a quarter century ago. These high temporal resolution data provide variability that is important to meteorologists, air traffic management and pilots. Yet getting these data into the “hands” of users and meteorologist has proven a difficult task.

Overall, the skies are safer due to advances in technology and the efforts of meteorologists. This presentation will describe some of the enhancements to aviation weather the author help implement and some that remain including the limitations of the Terminal Aviation Forecast (TAF).

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