Use of a High-Resolution Deterministic Weather Forecast for Strategic Air Traffic Management Decision Support

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Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 9:00 AM
Use of a High-Resolution Deterministic Weather Forecast for Strategic Air Traffic Management Decision Support
310 (Washington State Convention Center)
Michael Robinson, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA; and J. Venuti and S. McGettigan

One of the most significant air traffic challenges is managing the National Airspace System (NAS) in a manner that optimizes efficiency and mitigates avoidable delay, while maintaining safety, when convective weather is present. To do this, aviation planners seek to develop strategic air traffic management (ATM) plans and initiatives that anticipate weather constraints 2-8 hours in the future and identify options and alternatives for efficient operations during the off-nominal NAS conditions. In support of strategic planning, traffic managers currently conduct bi-hourly Strategic Planning Telcons (SPTs) and devise weather impact mitigations plans using the human-generated Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP). However, most operational decision-makers agree that the quasi-deterministic CCFP “polygons” (accompanied by a “low/high” forecast confidence rating) lack the granularity and temporal resolution to adequately support efficient strategic ATM plans and decisions. Moreover, traffic managers also assert that probabilistic forecasts of convective weather likelihood, while helpful in highlighting regions of possible airspace disruptions, generally lack the ability to resolve specific weather characteristics pertinent to strategic planning.

MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NCAR Research Applications Laboratory, and NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) have collaborated to develop a high-resolution, rapidly updating 0-8 hour deterministic precipitation and echo tops forecast, known as CoSPA, to aid operational decision-makers in developing strategic plans for weather impact mitigation. In the summer of 2010, a comprehensive field study was conducted to assess potential benefits and the operational performance of CoSPA in the context of strategic ATM planning. The data were gathered by simultaneous real-time observations of 15 FAA and airline operations facilities during 15 convective weather impact days affecting the Northern Plains, Great Lakes, and East Coast regions of the NAS.

CoSPA field evaluation results will be presented to demonstrate the various ways aviation planners have utilized the increased spatial and temporal resolution of CoSPA – the ability of CoSPA to resolve storm structure and refine forecasts with high update rates – to make more detailed assessments of potential weather impacts and to determine the subsequent need for airspace management initiatives. Results will also be presented that highlight CoSPA enhancement needs, primarily related to forecast uncertainty, that would improve the operational effectiveness of CoSPA-derived weather impact mitigation plans. Finally, opportunities to translate CoSPA deterministic forecasts into integrated weather-ATM decision support for specific strategic planning tasks will be discussed.