New thunderstorm forecast to help cut flight delays

August 14, 2000

BOULDER--Summer thunderstorms are notorious for triggering flight schedule mayhem. In the midst of this season's share of delays and cancellations, a new forecast tool is quietly providing the airlines their best shot at spotting thunderstorm hazards across the nation.

Developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Convective Weather Forecast has been whipping out storm updates every five minutes over the Internet since June 1, and the major airlines are tuning in.

"We check the updated forecast throughout the day. It's invaluable as we determine routings and select altitudes for our aircraft," says Steve Caisse, flight superintendent for Delta Air Lines and past president of the Airline Dispatchers Federation. "It gives dispatchers a better picture of where the thunderstorms will be over the next several hours, which is a critical element in the safe and efficient execution of our flight schedule."

Among the other major airlines using the National Convective Weather Forecast are American, Northwest, Southwest, and TWA.

An official National Weather Service guidance product, the on-line "nowcast" operates out of the NWS Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City, Missouri. Its one-hour national thunderstorm forecast automatically updates every five minutes to help commercial airlines, the FAA, and general aviation keep planes safe and on time.

"We're working to provide the most accurate, current, and useful thunderstorm information available within today's technology," says NCAR project scientist Cynthia Mueller. Mueller, along with colleagues, developed the system for the FAA over the past year from her NCAR office in Boulder, Colorado. It is the most recent outcome of 15 years of NCAR research and development aimed at providing thunderstorm forecasts for the aviation community.

The nowcast is used together with another recently developed guidance tool, the Collaborative Collective Forecast Product, now in its second year of operation at the AWC. The collaborative forecast provides airline meteorologists with a best first guess at thunderstorm activity over the next two to six hours. Every few hours the AWC meteorologists, FAA flow control managers, and airline meteorologists adjust this initial forecast during a conference call and then plan accordingly.

But thunderstorms are not very predictable six hours ahead. For strategic decisions over the next hour, dispatchers need an accurate look at the current situation. That's where the NCAR nowcast comes in, with its frequently updated national map of where the thunderstorms are now and where they're forecast to be in one hour.

According to the FAA, about 69% of air traffic control delays during 1999 were due to weather.
The FAA's Aviation Weather Research Program sponsored NCAR's development of the National Convective Weather Forecast. Some research assistance was provided by the MIT Lincoln Laboratories, NWS Aviation Weather Center, and the National Severe Storms Laboratory (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation. NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences.

National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Related Thunderstorms Articles from Brightsurf:

Study delivers new knowledge about what causes thunderstorms and cloud bursts
Thunderstorms often provoke violent cloud bursts that can result in devastating flooding.

NASA finds strongest storms off-center in Tropical Storm 14W  
NASA's Terra satellite provided an infrared view and temperature analysis of Tropical Storm 14W's cloud tops.

NASA Northern quadrant strength in Tropical Cyclone Lili
NASA's Aqua satellite used infrared light to analyze the strength of storms in Tropical Cyclone Lili as it moved through the Southern Indian Ocean.

Thunderstorms half a world away significantly contribute to heat waves in central California
Scientists reveal links between unusually strong tropical convection and extreme California heat waves.

NASA finds tiny remnants of Tropical Cyclone Owen
Tropical Cyclone Owen crossed over Queensland Australia's Cape York Peninsula over the weekend of Dec.

NASA sees the spiraling in Typhoon Cimaron
Bands of thunderstorms were spiraling into the center in Typhoon Cimaron when NASA's Aqua satellite passed overhead on Aug.

NASA finds heavy rainmaking thunderstorms in Hurricane Bud
Powerful Hurricane Bud sat near the coast of southwestern Mexico when NASA's Aqua satellite observed some very high, towering thunderstorms within.

Army scientist studies thunderstorms to improve battlefield missions
An Army scientist working at the Army Research Laboratory has discovered a new pattern in the evolution of thunderstorms that can be used to better predict how weather and the environment will affect Army assets such as unmanned aerial systems on the battlefield.

NASA's GPM radar spots tornado spawning thunderstorms in Ohio Valley
Severe weather that rolled through the Ohio Valley on Nov.

Ship exhaust makes oceanic thunderstorms more intense
Thunderstorms directly above two of the world's busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don't travel, according to new research.

Read More: Thunderstorms News and Thunderstorms Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to