Oceanic Weather

BACKGROUND

Weather conditions can seriously restrict aircraft operations and levels of service available to system users.  Thus, the manner by which weather is observed, forecasted, disseminated, and used in decision-making is of critical importance.  Aviation users operating within oceanic and remote regions have limited access to high-resolution (temporal and spatial) weather products that depict the current and future locations of deep convection and turbulence.

To address these needs, RAL scientists and engineers are developing weather products to identify and characterize the oceanic/remote occurrence of deep convection.  The near-global convection diagnosis system detects deep convection using satellite-based methodologies, global lightning data and numerical model results. Two products in the system, the Cloud Top Height (CTH) and the Convection Diagnosis Oceanic (CDO), are now displayed in the flight decks of Lufthansa Airlines and Brussels Airlines aircraft, as part of the Global Weather Hazards project. In the summer of 2018, the FAA Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC) began to display the CTH and CDO products within the flight deck of three domestic airlines as part of the Remote Oceanic Meteorology Information Operational (ROMIO) demonstration. Accomplishments and plans related to the ongoing research and development of oceanic convection weather products are discussed below.

GLOBAL WEATHER HAZARDS

Figure 1. Lufthansa Airlines eRM display of the CDO and CTH polygons. Color shapes represent the CDO interest values as follows: green is >2 and yellow is >3. The grey shapes are CTH contours beginning at >30 kft (FL300) with darker shapes indicating higher contours at increments of 5 kft to a maximum of >50kft (FL500). The area shown includes Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) over the northern part of South America. Storm motion vectors are shown with red arrows. NWS Convective SIGMETs are shown with the tan polygons.
Figure 1. Lufthansa Airlines eRM display of the CDO and CTH polygons. Color shapes represent the CDO interest values as follows: green is >2 and yellow is >3. The grey shapes are CTH contours beginning at >30 kft (FL300) with darker shapes indicating higher contours at increments of 5 kft to a maximum of >50kft (FL500). The area shown includes Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) over the northern part of South America. Storm motion vectors are shown with red arrows. NWS Convective SIGMETs are shown with the tan polygons.

Inflight display of products depicting convective hazards are needed by pilots of transoceanic aircraft to assist with strategic route planning during long flights of up to ~17 hr. Such displays enable pilots to see potential convective hazards along the entire flight route, beyond the range of the onboard radar, and to reference the products while planning for future avoidance maneuvers. These new products are supplemental to the onboard weather radar for operational or tactical decisions.  Using satellite-based algorithms augmented with global lightning data and global numerical model results, two convective products, the CTH and the CDO, are providing real-time, operational guidance to Lufthansa Airlines and Brussels Airlines pilots. The products are uplinked into the flight deck and subsequently displayed on an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) developed by Lufthansa Integrated Dispatch Operation (LIDO) named the eRouteManual (eRM). An application, called WxClient, displays the selected CTH and CDO products on the eRM (Fig. 1).

The Global Weather Hazard (GWH) project began in 2015 with a partnership between Lufthansa Airlines, Basic Commerce & Industries, Inc. (BCI), NCAR and the Weather Solutions Division of the Sutron Corporation. This project is a commercial effort that has expanded coverage to a global domain with latitude limits of -50S to 70N. Display of both the CTH and the CDO products are shown on the LIDO eRM’s of Lufthansa Airlines B747-8 aircraft and the Brussels Airlines fleet. About 50 aircraft currently receive the two products. The CTH and CDO polygons are plotted over the navigational charts on the eRM and provide the pilot with situational awareness of convective hazards over the planned flight route.

FY2018 Accomplishments

The CTH/CDO oceanic convection diagnosis system was successfully run during the fiscal year, providing convective hazard guidance to Lufthansa Airlines and Brussels Airlines pilots. The products are commercially available through BCI. The GWH system was upgraded with the addition of the new geostationary satellites GOES-16 and Meteosat-11. A follow on contract with BCI was negotiated.

FY2019 Plans

Further enhancements to the GWH system are planned that include the addition of GOES-17 and the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) total lightning data, refinement of the storm extrapolation methodology, enhanced data quality methods, and others. 

WTIC Remote Oceanic Meteorology Information Operational (ROMIO) Demonstration

The FAA WTIC ROMIO demonstration is analyzing oceanic aviation inefficiencies in current or future NextGen operations caused by gaps in either the available meteorological information or in the technology utilized in the cockpit.  Using an operational demonstration to uplink convective weather products into the cockpit of domestic airlines, this effort helps to identify and analyze operational gaps.

Figure 2. The ROMIO BCI Viewer shows the CTH and CDO products for a flight from Medellin, Columbia to Miami, FL. An overview of the weather situation over the entire flight route is shown in the left panel. The flight route is indicated by the magenta line. A magnified view of the storms near the flight route is shown in the right panel.
Figure 2. The ROMIO BCI Viewer shows the CTH and CDO products for a flight from Medellin, Columbia to Miami, FL. An overview of the weather situation over the entire flight route is shown in the left panel. The flight route is indicated by the magenta line. A magnified view of the storms near the flight route is shown in the right panel.

In the summer of FY2018, the WTIC ROMIO team began the operational demonstration with a phased implementation that started with Delta Air Lines. United Airlines and American Airlines are expected to begin the demonstration before December 2018. Following the ROMIO Operational Plan, written in an earlier effort, all aspects of the demonstration have been carefully planned and include the availability and ingest of meteorological data sets, the creation of weather products and their dissemination to the aircraft. Training the flight crews on the capabilities and limitations of the products, understanding how pilot decision-making might be facilitated with the convective products and soliciting flight crew feedback has been completed. A similar effort has been completed for dispatchers at the Airline Operations Centers. Development of the ROMIO Viewer, with examples shown in Fig. 2, was completed by BCI and includes the ability for pilots, dispatchers and air traffic controllers to provide feedback after the end of a flight or during a shift. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is collecting and analyzing the feedback to understand how the products filled existing gaps in meteorological information or in the technology utilized in the cockpit and how the products may change decision making by all parties. Collaborative partners include the FAA, NCAR, BCI, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Panasonic, Gogo and several FAA groups.

See Dissemination of Aviation Weather Information for more information on the FAA WTIC program.

FY2018 Accomplishments

The Communications Plan for the operational demonstration was completed and the ROMIO demonstration began in July 2018 with Delta Air Lines. United Airlines and American Airlines will commence once all necessary preparations are in place. Dispatch centers at Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were visited. The NCAR ROMIO satellite processing system creates the CTH and CDO products in real-time over a domain that includes the GOES-East and GOES-West satellites coverage area. The system was upgraded this year to include the new GOES-16 satellite and the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) total lightning data. BCI developed the ROMIO Viewer to display the CTH/CDO products and flight route information on tablets in the cockpit or on the web. Pilot training material was provided to the airlines. The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is leading the effort to do the benefits analysis from collected feedback. Early results suggest positive results are realized through the use of the two products.

FY2019 Plans

During FY2019, the ROMIO operational demonstration will be conducted with a planned end date of 30 September 2019. Feedback from pilots, the Airlines Operations Centers, and the FAA Oceanic Control Centers will continue to be collected and benefits analyzed by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to ensure that project goals are met. The satellite processing system will be upgraded to include the new GOES-17 satellite.