Category Archives: Weather Conditions

Boiling It Down | Advanced Technology

Forecasters from Weather Forecast OfficesSophisticated computer technology and maximized communications and research, combined with the talent and expertise of meteorologists, have helped revamp the quality and volume of aviation weather information and facts, which is critical for flight safety and efficiency. The Weather Service will continue to field brand-new and improved aviation weather products in cooperation with the FAA.

Present-day research is predicted to lead to more precise clear air turbulence projections at altitudes up to 45,000 feet (13.7 kilometers), far better thunderstorm forecasts out to 12 hours, and greatly improved icing severity forecasts. Such potential advancements will allow NOAA to continue to deliver information used by airline dispatchers, pilots, and air traffic managers– details that helps them make more intelligent choices about where and when to fly to be secure and to minimize fuel use.

Aviation

Signal Service weather map (1872)

Every day, dangerous weather conditions can cancel and delay airline flights, and severe weather can turn a flight into a threatening experience. NOAAs Aviation Weather Center issues warnings of hazardous conditions within the international and domestic airspace and issues aviation weather forecasts and analyses to save lives, protect property, and enhance commerce.

Within nine years of the Wright brothers’ short 1903 excursion into the thin air of powered flight, aviation weather became a staple of weather forecasting. Just as the mechanics and technology of aviation have grown by bounds and leaps, so too has the federal government’s effort to provide critical weather information to pilots and those who support them.
Weather information has always been important to the citizenry of the United States, and never more so than after the Wright brothers’ accomplishment at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

This article takes a look at the history of aviation weather forecasting, starting in the early 1900s, and concludes by reviewing the techniques and tools used by NOAA’s National Weather Service today to enhance the safety of airplane travel.

Getting Off the Ground

While weather observation networks began to grow during the mid-1800s, actually getting collected information to others was a major chore. Daring innovators pushed the barriers of air travel and the government pushed the collection and dissemination of weather data to enhance the level of safety for those travelers taking to the skies.

Enter the Weather Bureau

In 1911, just eight years after that first manned flight by the Wright brothers, C.P. Rogers completed the first transcontinental airplane flight, spending 87 hours and four minutes over 18 days to fly from New York City to Pasadena, California. Three years later, the U.S. Weather Bureau, the predecessor agency to NOAA’s National Weather Service, established an aerological section to provide weather forecasts specifically to meet the growing needs of aviation.

Aviation weather passed two major milestones in 1918. The Weather Bureau began issuing bulletins and forecasts for domestic military flights and new air mail routes. And, on December 1, 1918, the Weather Bureau issued its first aviation weather forecast– for the Aerial Mail Service route from New York to Chicago.

Recognizing the important connection between weather forecasting and aviation, on May 20, 1926, Congress passed the Air Commerce Act. This Act included legislation directing the Weather Bureau to “furnish weather reports, forecasts, warnings … to promote the safety and efficiency of air navigation in the United States.”.

“Back then, the early forecasters knew little about weather phenomena that affect aviation: thunderstorms, fog, low clouds, icing, and turbulence,” said Jack May, director of the NOAA’s Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The taking of weather observations was mostly surface-based.

Over the years, this would change as technology evolved. In 1931, the Weather Bureau began regular 5 a.m. aircraft observations at Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, and Omaha at altitudes reaching 16,000 feet (4,875 meters). The use of regular aircraft to monitor aviation weather spelled the demise of the technique of using “kite stations” to collect weather information.

The first official Weather Bureau radio meteorograph, or radiosonde, sounding was made at East Boston, Massachusetts, in 1937. Radiosondes are units for use in weather balloons that measure various atmospheric parameters, such as air humidity, temperature, and pressure and transmit them to a fixed receiver on the ground. Two years later, the use of radiosondes would replace all military and Weather Bureau aircraft observations.

Radar entered the forecasting picture in 1942, when the U.S. Navy gave the Weather Bureau 25 surplus aircraft radars. These radars were modified for ground meteorological use, marking the start of a weather radar system in the U.S.

Every day, dangerous weather conditions can cancel and delay airline flights, and severe weather can turn a flight into a threatening experience. NOAAs Aviation Weather Center issues warnings of hazardous conditions within the international and domestic airspace and issues aviation weather forecasts and analyses to save lives, protect property, and enhance commerce.

And, on December 1, 1918, the Weather Bureau issued its first aviation weather forecast– for the Aerial Mail Service route from New York to Chicago.

“Back then, the early forecasters knew little about weather phenomena that affect aviation: thunderstorms, fog, low clouds, icing, and turbulence,” said Jack May, director of the NOAA’s Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The use of regular aircraft to monitor aviation weather spelled the demise of the technique of using “kite stations” to collect weather information.