10th Symposium on Integrated Observing and Assimilation Systems for the Atmosphere, Oceans, and Land Surface (IOAS-AOLS)


The emergence of commercial aircraft as a major component of the global atmospheric monitoring system

Rex J. Fleming, Global Aerospace, LLC, Boulder, CO; and R. May






The use of commercial aircraft as platforms of opportunity to communicate real time information about the atmosphere's wind and temperature field began with two programs in 1979. The growth of the practice had been slow but steady – reaching approximately 7000 reports per day within the United States in 1991, over 22,000 reports per day in 1996, and today with organized national efforts to collect such data existing in 15 countries (another 18 countries have similar programs in various stages of development). The impact of such data has been proven positive, and continued growth is assured. This paper will outline why the next phase of growth will be exponential and then level off – reaching the point where the use of the commercial aircraft will emerge as a major component of the global atmospheric monitoring system. The adjective “atmospheric” is used here to confine this discussion to measurements above the Earth's surface for the purposes of weather, climate, and air quality predictions (other non-atmospheric uses are possible but not discussed here). The reasons for the unprecedented growth involve the convenience of the platforms, the remarkable accuracy achievable by existing and planned sensors on-board the commercial aircraft, and the increasing demand for more accurate data in quality and quantity for various socioeconomic applications. The presentation summarizes this convenience, sensor accuracy, and demand for the data.  

 The convenience of the aircraft platforms (already in place for the movement of people and/or packages) is enhanced by three different global communication systems that can provide the real time data. The presentation will indicate how the technologies of diode and quantum cascade lasers have significantly improved atmospheric measurements of water vapor, temperature, and various trace gases – beginning with atmospheric ozone. All three of these variables can be obtained with the basic hardware and software that exists and/or is in preparation. The presentation highlights the growing demand for the more accurate data in the three fields of enhanced weather prediction, reduced uncertainty in the debate over the intensity and timing of global warming, and the growing concern of global air quality. The presentation will discuss the funding sources that are likely to help contribute to the growth of this observing system component. The sources will include the usual suspects and some new surprises.    


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Session 3, Atmospheric Observations, In Situ and Remote, Including From Satellites: Advantages and Shortcomings Compared with Other Observing Systems; the Integrated Upper Air Observing System (IUAOS) for the U.S.
Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 8:30 AM-12:15 PM, A405

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