Evolution of the SFO Marine Stratus Forecast System Decision Support Tool Based on Customer feedback

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 10:30 AM
Georgia Ballroom 3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Austin Cross, NOAA/NWS, Monterey, CA; and C. Riley
Manuscript (1.5 MB)

In 2012, the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was the second most weather related delayed airport in the United States. The main culprit of these weather related delays is due to stratus during the summer season over the terminal and approach zone. The low ceilings greatly decrease the possible arrival rate at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), where closely spaced parallel runways generally require visual separation on approach. Lowered capacity can have a ripple effect across the national airspace, requiring ground delays at airports across the country. Delays have steadily climbed at the airport year-over-year as traffic has increased, and the confined area leave improved weather forecasts as one of the few ways to mitigate the issue. The Marine Stratus Forecast System is an impact-based decision support services tool that aids the prediction of stratus clearing in the approach area. The system uses a network of sensors, combined with statistical and dynamic forecast models, and forecaster-over-the-loop input.

During the 2012 season, an effort was undertaken to further understand customer needs. The two authors, forecasters at the Weather Forecast Office in Monterey, and one forecaster from the Center Weather Service Unit in Fremont, traveled to the largest customer of SFO, United Airlines, and the FAA Command Center, responsible for the overall management of the national airspace to better understand SFO customer needs, as well as worked to increase collaboration with weather partners. Discussing the issues they deal with helped us gain insight into how we can improve our services to fit their needs.

We have since increased collaboration with National Weather Service partners. Through staff training, the WFO and CWSU are now in better contact to provide a consistent message to customers. Contact was also made with newly stationed NWS National Aviation Meteorologists. The WFO in Monterey and CWSU in Oakland hope that this relationship can be used as a model in the future for a close working relationship and open communication lines.

For the 2013 season, a new web presence was developed to allow an open, modern interface to the project data and forecasts for decision makers. Feedback from users at the FAA and airlines were taken into consideration to make the most useful information available quickly and easily. The site was designed to match the modern look of the National Weather Service's main weather.gov portal and adds dynamic interactivity to allow more information to be reached more quickly. By employing modern web technologies, the display is continuously updated, while never taking control of the page away from the user. Information that was previously only made available to the major stakeholders by password access is now available to all users of the airport.

Behind the scenes, cameras are increasingly used for situational awareness. The information they provide is invaluable for the human forecaster to make a determination of the cloud behavior and position over the approach. New archiving of imagery allows for a detailed comparison with other days to find subtle variations in the pattern.