89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009: 11:45 AM
A thunderstorm and lightning alert service for airport operations
Room 131A (Phoenix Convention Center)
Rodney J. Potts, CAWCR, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
Poster PDF (303.6 kB)
Thunderstorms and the associated weather have a range of impacts on operations at airports including disruption to ground operations. A number of incidents where airport ground staff working on the tarmac have been injured following lightning strikes has led to the implementation of procedures to ensure safe operations. This includes the provision of alerts when thunderstorms and associated lightning is likely in the vicinity of designated airports and the cessation of various ground operations for the duration of the alert. As a result aircraft cannot be unloaded and refuelled, they cannot leave parking bays and approaching aircraft may have no place to park and be forced to divert. This can cause a major disruption to immediate airport operations and a flow-on disruption to air traffic around the country that lasts for many hours.

Manual thunderstorm alerts prepared by Bureau of Meteorology forecasters in the past proved to be of limited value as they tended to be conservative and did not provide the temporal and spatial detail required by airlines. The pressure to maintain operations at airports is great and there is a need for better real time information about thunderstorms and associated lightning that allows the airlines to continue operations as long as possible and effectively manage the operational risks without compromising safety standards.

To satisfy this requirement an Automated Thunderstorm Alert Service (ATSAS) has been developed and is being progressively implemented around the country. Systems that support ATSAS take radar information from a Nowcast Applications Server and data from a single station lightning sensor and automatically generate end-user graphical and text products that show the location and movement of thunderstorm cells and the presence of lightning near the airport. The products are updated frequently and can be easily understood by airline personnel.

The systems that support the ATSAS will be described and some operational experiences and impacts will be presented.

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