ESRL Quarterly Newsletter - Winter 2011

Building the NextGen 4-D Data Cube

The second annual Interagency Weather Research Review and Coordination Meeting

meeting participants

There was a chill in the air the last day of November; a reminder that severe winter weather and all of its perils are just around the corner. But it’s a comfort to know that some of the brightest minds in weather forecasting research and technology gathered in Boulder, CO with the goal of making better forecasts to make air traffic run more smoothly, even in the face of increasing numbers of flights. More than 100 participants from government agencies, the private sector, and academia spent two and a half days discussing the research necessary to reach that goal, targeting the area of 2-6-hr convection.

The meeting—coordinated and hosted by organizers from NASA, NOAA, NCAR, and the FAA—addressed critical issues in numerical weather prediction, from observational needs, testbeds, and demonstrations to forecasting of convection, ceiling and visibility, turbulence, in-flight icing, volcanic ash, and other factors.

Darien Davis of ESRL’s Global Systems Division, GSD, worked with her colleagues to put together a comprehensive agenda that included several presentations from GSD. John Murray, NASA’s lead coordinator for the conference, said meeting participants were focused on the 4-D Weather Cube, a virtual database of weather observations and forecasts that will serve the reinvented U.S. air traffic management system envisioned by NextGen. “This meeting, he said, should help us from a science standpoint to address the path forward for aviation weather in the NextGen 4-D data cube with a strong appreciation for the end user in mind.”

Workshop participants from government, business, and academia talked about what research is needed to fill gaps in understanding and bridge research and operations. Dan Hartung, for example, from CIMSS/SSEC (a NOAA/Univeristy of Madison cooperative institute) develops satellite algorithms with a convection focus. “It’s in my interest to see which pieces are still unaddressed that operational forecasters would like to see developed and implemented,” Hartung said. “Through meetings like this we can assure that there isn’t too much overlapping of redundant research conducted.” He will personally apply the knowledge gained from this meeting by adding and or shifting focus as he refines and optimizes algorithms.

Companies such as Northrup Grumman and Vaisala, Inc. sent representatives because their research and systems support the aviation community or serve various weather models. They came to investigate the scientific community’s longer-term plans and how those will integrate into NextGen.

Murray and other organizers anticipate that the next meeting, planned for the week of November 14, 2011, will be driven by user needs and the science related to those needs. Next year’s meeting could include demonstrations of “tabletop scenarios”. Operational forecasters might, for example, present a realistic scenario; a severe weather event that could disrupt air traffic. From there, researchers could move it into the science that would support the forecasters’ needs and inform developers how best to use their science.


—Annie Reiser

Photo by Annie Reiser, NOAA.