Enhanced Digital Services for Aviation

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 1:30 PM
129A (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Cammye Sims Uskievich, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and S. Pontius

In the 1990s the National Weather Service (NWS) produced approximately 520 TAFs for the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The TAF was typed by hand and monitored by observations. Since that time TAF production by the NWS has drastically evolved. A major improvement occurred in 2003 when the NWS implemented new software called, Aviation Forecast and Preparation System (AvnFPS) to write, monitor, and disseminate TAFs. This software allowed the NWS to gradually increase the number of TAFs to 640 by 2013.

Starting around 1999, most WFO products including public, fire weather, and marine have been derived from gridded forecasts, edited by forecasters using the Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE). However with insufficient model resolution and no ceiling or visibility grids in GFE, the TAF was not part of the GFE gridded forecast process. Thus, the forecaster still employs a different process to write and disseminate TAFs, possibly introducing inconsistencies with the gridded forecast.

Over the years Decision Support Services has become a major component of the NWS mission. To better meet the needs of NWS stakeholders, forecasters have increased their effort on the short-term forecasts (0-36 hours), updating their grids (at a minimum) every 3 hours to keep up with changing weather. With enhanced focus on the short-term forecasts, and the availability of ceiling and visibility grids from high-resolution guidance, offices have begun to incorporate the TAF into their overall gridded production suite. Where previously the forecaster created TAFs independently from the grids, now they have the ability to derive the TAF product directly from the gridded forecast, as with the rest of the text product suite. This allows the forecaster to spend more time improving the short-term forecast, which benefits all service areas.

Future improvements to the TAF are now focused on building an improved first guess TAF from the gridded database, so that each specific TAF is a product of a blend of model guidance, climatology, and forecaster knowledge of the local area. For example, model guidance alone may miss or over forecast a fog event that affects one or more TAF locations. Using a suite of tools developed specifically for aviation forecasting, the forecaster adjusts the database to correct and improve the grids that serve as the foundation for all products. Text formatters with knowledge about specific airport characteristics generate the TAF product from this gridded forecast. Enhanced Digital Services allows forecasters to focus on the specific areas that they know affect aviation and target where they can make a difference.