The impact of climate variability has been seen in numerous studies; however teleconnections from various climate modes, such as in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), have not been applied directly to commercial aviation operations. These climatic modes can be quantitatively understood by using the climate indices provided by the National Climatic Data Center. By combining climate indices with surface observations, the influence of climate variability on aviation operations can be better understood. Changes in weather patterns that can create delays and economic loses, such as increases or decreases in snowstorm or low cloud ceiling frequencies, associated with different climatic modes can then be identified.
To better understand the impacts climate variability has on commercial aviation operations, METARs can be used to identify and focus on conditions most likely to create weather delays, decrease efficiency, and require more flight planning, such as weather likely to cause Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) conditions. This information can then be compared with recorded airline delay statistics to determine if climate variability has any influence on overall operations. The primary focus will be on airports in different regions of the United States with large volumes of commercial traffic (i.e. different regional airport hubs). Preliminary results using METAR data from three Dallas – Fort Worth area airports have shown varying trends in visibility, cloud ceiling height, temperature, precipitation, and wind speed and direction, and present weather type that can be linked to different ENSO phases. Later when combined with delay data from Dallas Love Airport and Dallas – Fort Worth International Airport, the influence of the ENSO phase on delays or impacts to efficiency can be assessed. Ultimately, this information can be used to develop probabilistic long term forecasts for specific key airports within an operator's network. With the use of these forecasts, commercial operators can better make adjustments to routes, equipment locations, and overall operations to minimize delays within the network and maximize economic gains.