215 Use of Observational Data to Aid in Aviation Forecasting

Monday, 23 January 2017
Melissa Di Spigna, NWS, Upton, NY

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Control System Command Center and Air Route Traffic Control Centers significantly benefit from on-site meteorologists providing tailored face-to-face weather briefings. These National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists work in concert with each other and the NWS the meteorologists at the 122 NWS Weather Forecasts Offices to provide critical information for air traffic planning. Using an ever expanding set of observational and high resolution model data, they provide FAA personnel with enough lead time to plan appropriately for any air traffic initiatives needed to manage the thousands of daily flights that occur in the National Airspace System (NAS).

On 16 June 2016, multiple areas of thunderstorms across the Midwest into the Northeast caused significant aviation impacts with departure delays averaging two to three hours for the major airports in New York City and Philadelphia. Compounding the planning efforts of the FAA was a series of inaccurate model forecasts that failed to capture both ongoing and future convective trends, including an automated Collaborative Convective Forecast Product that is used extensively by the FAA. Using observational data, meteorologists were able to recognize that thunderstorms would develop and persist longer than model forecast.

The author will demonstrate how meteorologists provide crucial detail that automated forecasts may not be able to. The quick recognition of patterns in this case enabled the meteorologists on duty to provide detailed briefings and specialized forecasts allowing the FAA to mitigate serious impacts to the NAS. In a technological age with continued developments in modeling, it’s important to recognize that experienced meteorologists can still provide insight into the reasoning behind a forecast.

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