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 convection diagnosis systems detect deep convection using satellite-based methodologies, ground-based and geostationary lightning data and numerical model results using two products, the Cloud Top Height (CTH) and the Convection Diagnosis Oceanic (CDO). Since 2015,  these products have been created over a near-global domain and displayed in the flight decks of Lufthansa Airlines 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 in the flight deck of three domestic airlines as part of the Remote Oceanic Meteorology Information Operational (ROMIO) demonstration over  a hemispheric domain. Accomplishments and plans related to the ongoing research and development of oceanic convection weather products are discussed below.

Remote Oceanic Meteorology Information Operational (ROMIO) Demonstration

Figure 1. Information provided by a pilot participant on the use of and quality of the ROMIO CTH and CDO products. The upper left panel shows the onboard weather radar that displays the weather radar return of the clouds below the aircraft altitude. The upper right panel shows the cloud tops as viewed out the window. The bottom panel shows the ROMIO Viewer display of the CDO (green shapes) and CTH (gray shapes) products as the aircraft approached the area of concern. The text box at the bottom contains pilot feedback on ROMIO effectiveness.
Figure 1. Information provided by a pilot participant on the use of and quality of the ROMIO CTH and CDO products. The upper left panel shows the onboard weather radar that displays the weather radar return of the clouds below the aircraft altitude. The upper right panel shows the cloud tops as viewed out the window. The bottom panel shows the ROMIO Viewer display of the CDO (green shapes) and CTH (gray shapes) products as the aircraft approached the area of concern. The text box at the bottom contains pilot feedback on ROMIO effectiveness.

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. 

In the summer of FY2018, the WTIC ROMIO team began an operational demonstration in a phased implementation that started with Delta Air Lines. United Airlines and American Airlines entered the demonstration early in 2019. Following the ROMIO Operational Plan, written in an earlier effort, all aspects of the demonstration were 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 was completed. A similar effort was completed for dispatchers at the Airline Operations Centers. Development of the ROMIO Viewer, with an example 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. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is collecting and analyzing the feedback to understand how the products fill existing gaps in meteorological information or in the technology utilized in the cockpit and how the products may change decision making by all parties. As shown in Figure 2, 73% of pilot respondents believe that ROMIO is more effective at obtaining relevant, timely weather information than the current system and hardware. 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. An abstract was submitted to the AMS Aviation, Range and Aerospace Meteorology Conference to describe the ROMIO program and the benefits analysis results.

Figure 2. Results of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University summary of pilot feedback for one of the questions.
Figure 2. Results of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University summary of pilot feedback for one of the questions.

Arman Izadi, a PhD graduate student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, was selected as the 2019 Halaby Fellow and spent the summer of 2019 at NCAR RAL working on the ROMIO benefits analysis, analyzing aircraft deviations around weather events. An abstract was submitted to the upcoming AIAA Aviation Forum and Exposition.

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

 

FY2019 Accomplishments

The ROMIO demonstration began in July 2018 with Delta Air Lines. United Airlines and American Airlines entered the demonstration in early 2019. The NCAR ROMIO satellite processing system created the CTH and CDO products in real-time over a domain that includes the GOES-East and GOES-West satellites. The system was upgraded this year to include the new GOES-17 satellite and its Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) total lightning data. Due to problems with the GOES-17 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) cooling system, the computation of the CDO product was redesigned to account for the lessened ABI data quality. Storm polygons of the CDO and CTH products were provided to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for the benefits analysis. A Program Management Review meeting was held at NCAR on 18 September 2019. The satellite processing system had a hardware upgrade of additional memory and an upgrade of the operating system.

FY2020 Plans

During FY2020, the ROMIO operational demonstration will be conducted with a planned end date of 31 December 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 Himawari-8 satellite when the FAA WTIC program provides the data feed.

Plans are underway to extend ROMIO to the general aviation community in Alaska and to write a Project Plan for this effort. A second effort is planned that will write a Transition Plan to take the ROMIO CTH and CDO products to an operational status. During the Transition Plan effort, the satellite system will continue to be operated at NCAR and will be available to licensed users.

GLOBAL WEATHER HAZARDS PROJECT

Figure 3. 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 3. 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 ground-based lightning data, geostationary lightning data from the GOES satellites and global numerical model results, two convective products, the CTH and the CDO, are providing real-time, operational guidance to Lufthansa 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) (Fig. 3).

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 fleet with about 50 aircraft currently receiving 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.

FY2019 Accomplishments

The CTH/CDO oceanic convection diagnosis system was successfully run on servers at Meteostar during the fiscal year, providing convective hazard guidance to Lufthansa Airlines pilots. The products are commercially available through BCI.

A quality-controlled archive data set of the CTH and CDO products was created for a 1 year period for use by the Google Loons project, to test the feasibility of their using the products for their stratospheric balloon deployments and navigation.

FY2020 Plans

Further enhancements to the GWH system are planned to include the GOES-16 and GOES-17 Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) total lightning data, refinement of the storm extrapolation methodology, increasing the update rate of CDO to 5 min and enhanced data quality methods. Another agreement will be negotiated for tasks such as including the GOES-17 ABI data and reconfiguring the CDO computation to account for the ABI data quality deficiencies, and investigating the use of GOES-R level 2 products to enhance the CDO product.