Grounded aircraft could make weather forecasts less reliable

Grounded aircraft could make weather forecasts less reliable

Because of travel restrictions and a drop in demand from customers, and a decrease in demand for flights, the number of flights during the beginning of April 2020 fell 61 percent when compared to the same timeframe in 2019. The outbreak has destroyed the skies of planes; however it’s not only the airline industry that is reeling from the sudden shift.

Aircraft have one of the more sophisticated electronic devices available, and some of them monitor the weather while flying. It’s possible that you don’t notice it when you fly. Aeroplanes can automatically transmit information to meteorologists, who then use it to develop weather forecasts.

Since 1998 in 1998, in 1998, the Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) system has gathered data from 43 airlines by using sensors that are installed on hundreds of planes. The aircraft continuously keep track of the pressure and temperature of air and wind speed, as well as turbulence, wind speed as well as water vapor. They transmit this information via satellite or radio. On the ground, meteorologists enter this data together with information from ocean buoys, weather balloons, ground stations, and weather prediction models.

A solar-powered buoy gathers information about the weather within the Gulf of Mexico. EngineerPhotos/Shutterstock

The weather data collected by aircraft is thought of as “second only to satellite data in their impact on forecasts,” as per experts. The aircraft collected more than a million observations of meteorology every day in the year 2019 across the globe. However, observations made by aircraft in 2020 have dropped by approximately 90 percent in certain regions. How does this affect the weather forecast that we review every day?


Filling the gaps

Mathematical models rely on current weather conditions and intricate, atmospheric physics to produce an accurate forecast. The observations of aircraft taken during landing and take-off are the most effective for forecasting weather on the surface, and those recorded during flight are crucial to forecast the weather at higher altitudes where planes fly.

However, even observations at high altitudes are important to forecast surface weather conditions since measurements of water vapor are used to model cloud formation. Studies have shown that the observations of aircraft enhance the accuracy of forecasts for hurricanes. Global climate models require global observations. In several regions of the globe, especially in the oceans, AMDAR is the only data source.

Research has shown that observations from aircraft can reduce forecasting errors by as much as 20 20%. It is believed that the loss of all data from aircraft could reduce the accuracy of flying level forecasts which are vital to flight planning, by as much as 15 15%.

A similar decrease in forecast precision was observed in Europe and in the North Atlantic in 2010 during the time that it was the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull eruption forced the airspace of the region to shut down. One of the consequences of the observations by aircraft meteorologists being reduced by 90% is that planes which continue to fly are not as accurate in forecasting in order to direct their flight, especially in regions of the Earth that have less frequent monitoring.

Organizations like the European National Meteorological Service are launching additional weather balloons in an effort to fill in the data gaps caused by grounded planes. There are efforts underway to ensure that information gathered by aircraft is available to the members of the World Meteorological Organisation – the UN agency that forecasts weather.

The meteorologist flies a balloon from Australia’s remotest weather station. Edward Haylan/Shutterstock

Meteorologists also have recourse to satellite sensors to monitor clouds as well as temperature, rainfall, and. With perfect timing, the brand new Aeolus satellite began to provide information on wind direction and speed starting in January 2020. Prior to that, all measurements across oceans and other remote regions were carried out using aircraft.

Therefore, despite COVID-19, forecasting of weather will continue, but with fewer observations, forecasts in the near future may not be as reliable, especially in remote areas where less data has been collected. Pilots are only allowed to fly if they are happy with forecasts’ accuracy, and there’s not likely to exist any threat to life on the ground. As we move into our Atlantic storm season, that is forecast to become more intense than normal, and therefore, the most accurate forecasts are likely to be difficult to find at first. The result could be less certain. of models for tracking hurricanes less sure.

The number of flights is predicted to return to normal gradually. In the meantime, inconsistent forecasts for weather are another symptom of the pandemic. It’s likely to take some time getting used to.


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