New weather-forecasting technology from NASA is set to become a vital aid to transatlantic pilots in avoiding potentially dangerous or disruptive weather conditions over the ocean.
The new technology will gives pilots and air traffic controllers a more accurate view of rapidly-changing weather systems over areas of open water. Prior to the new NASA technology being released, transatlantic pilots have had to rely on pre-flight briefings, or in the case of more severe storms, weather updates every four hours. Onboard radar also gives pilot some understanding of atmospheric conditions, but the new system will allow for more accurate rerouting should severe storms develop.
Cathy Kessinger, the lead researcher at NASA's National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), explained the benefit of the new system.
"These new forecasts can help fill an important gap in our aviation system," said Ms Kessinger. "Pilots have had limited information about atmospheric conditions as they fly over the ocean, where conditions can be severe. By providing them with a picture of where significant storms will be during an eight-hour period, the system can contribute to both the safety and comfort of passengers on flights," she added.
The NASA technology combines data from geostationary satellites with complex modelling and wind field simulations to track and predict the paths of severe storms over oceans.
"These advanced techniques enable us to inform pilots about the potential for violent downdrafts and turbulence, even over the middle of the ocean where we don't have land-based radar or other tools to observe storms in detail," explained Ms Kessinger.