89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Lightning warnings for airport ramp operations: A case study of possible complications in populating and using the NextGen 4-D data cube
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
David B. Johnson, NCAR, Boulder, CO
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will require the automated sharing of data for air traffic management and operational decisions. Weather will be critical to these decisions. The key element in the NextGen systems is the 4-D Data Cube, a computer compatible, virtual, data archive that will be used to provide users, including automated decision making systems, access to a standard and uniform set of information and observations. A portion of the weather information included in the 4-D Data Cube will be considered the “single authoritative” data source to ensure that air traffic management decisions are internally consistent and mutually compatible.

NextGen will also extend the scope of the operations that are monitored and evaluated by the system to provide curb to curb coverage (i.e., monitoring all operations that will affect traffic from the time passengers show up at their departure airport until they arrive at their destination). Possible ramp closures due to nearby lightning will need to be included in operational planning. At present, ramp operations of this sort are strictly a local airport and airline issue. Lightning warning systems are often provided by individual airlines, without any formal standard set of criteria for decision making. Different airlines, for example, at the same airport can make different decisions about when to clear the ramp and when to resume operations.

Among the issues that will need to be resolved are to what extent all aspects of airport and airline operations will need to be standardized, including when to shut down ramp operations in response to nearby lightning. How do we determine which lightning observations should be included in the 4-D Data Cube and which should considered the “single authoritative” data source? How do we handle potential conflicts between the public and private sectors? For example, should all essential meteorological information, in this case data from lightning detection networks, be publicly provided, or is there room for proprietary, limited distribution products in an era of shared awareness? And for that matter, can a centralized system provide the rapid dissemination needed for ramp safety, or would a parallel system of local observations and customized high-speed dissemination networks still be necessary?

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