Integration of Weather Information into Air Traffic Management


Since weather conditions can seriously restrict aircraft operations and levels of service available to system users, the manner in which weather is observed, forecast, disseminated, and used in making air traffic management (ATM) decisions is of critical importance to the operation of the United States’ National Airspace System (NAS) and international airspaces, especially oceanic domains.  As the United States moves toward significantly increasing the capacity of the NAS through implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), integrating weather information (and associated uncertainty) into ATM decision-making processes is critical.  Moreover, harmonization around the globe with partners such as the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and the Collaborative Action for Renovation of Air Traffic Systems (CARATS) in Japan plays an important role as well.  NCAR/RAL contributes in various ways to these efforts by developing aviation weather hazard guidance products and means for their dissemination, collaboration with users of such products, including assistance with integration into decision support tools.  In addition, RAL participates in many outreach and education activities.


Under sponsorship of the FAA’s Aviation Weather Research Program, RAL continues to develop weather hazard guidance products based on utilizing observations, diagnosing model output, and making use of data fusion and mining technologies.  Probabilistic prediction methodologies are developed that build on ensemble models and translate atmospheric conditions into aviation impacts.  These research and development efforts are discussed in the convective storms, turbulence, icing, oceanic weather and dissemination sections of the annual report.


Many of the weather hazard guidance products developed under sponsorship by the FAA Aviation Weather Research Program end up being implemented in NOAA’s operational environment for routine production and dissemination to the aviation industry.


Currently RAL is supporting the NASA UTM—Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Traffic Management system—development by researching how weather, and in particular turbulence, affects UAS performance.  RAL is also supporting NASA in its quest to further Urban Air Mobility (UAM) by understanding the weather sensitivity of these emerging aerial ride-sharing vehicles and whether current routine weather guidance (both observations and forecasts) may be adequate to support UAM operations.  Details of the RAL research and development efforts are discussed in the weather impacts on emerging modes of aerial transportation section of the annual report.


RAL continues to participate in many outreach venues to further weather R&D, harmonization, and integration into ATM decision support tools.  Notable events this past year included the Friends and Partners in Aviation Weather (FPAW; meetings organized by RAL and hosted by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) at its Annual Convention & Exhibit and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), respectively, and the UAS Weather Forum ( held at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) XPONENTIAL show.  These events continue to serve as excellent venues to share and discuss latest developments with industry, government and research partners.  RAL staff is represented on several ICAO, FAA and industry advisory committees, and professional organizations such as AMS and AIAA.  RAL participated in several exhibits, including the annual Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) and AUVSI XPONENTIAL shows.


Figure 1.  Convective weather hazard deviation analysis.
Figure 1.  Convective weather hazard deviation analysis.

The Najeeb E. Halaby Graduate Student Fellowship ( was established by NCAR/RAL to shape the next generation of researchers in aviation weather, honoring the late Najeeb Elias Halaby, an eminent aviator and administrator, for his vision and more than five decades of extraordinary contributions to aviation.  The recipient of a Halaby Fellowship will spend three months in residence with NCAR’s Aviation Weather Research Program, which Mr. Halaby was instrumental in establishing in the 1980s, conducting research broadly aimed at improving the integration of weather into decision support tools for improved weather avoidance and air traffic management.

Arman Izadi, this year’s Halaby Fellow, focused his research on characterizing the benefits of having enhanced weather information in the cockpit of commercial airliners for avoiding en-route convective weather hazards, especially over vast oceanic airspace (Figure 1).  Arman will present his results at the June 2020 AIAA Aviation Forum in Reno, Nevada, showing how the use of satellite-based weather hazard information is yielding smoother weather hazard avoidance routing.