Exploring High-Impact Weather Communication across Time Scales for Route Planning through the Aviation Weather Testbed

Stephanie Avey NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Aviation Weather Center, Kansas City, Missouri;

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Patrick C. Burke NOAA/OAR/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma;

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Austin Cross NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Aviation Weather Center, Kansas City, Missouri;

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Robert Hepper NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Aviation Weather Center, Kansas City, Missouri;

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Heather Reeves Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, Norman, Oklahoma

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Patrick S. Skinner Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, Norman, Oklahoma

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Open access

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Stephanie Avey, stephanie.avey@noaa.gov

Publisher’s Note: This article was modified on 11 July 2023 to correct the affiliation for authors Heather Reeves and Patrick Skinner.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Stephanie Avey, stephanie.avey@noaa.gov

Publisher’s Note: This article was modified on 11 July 2023 to correct the affiliation for authors Heather Reeves and Patrick Skinner.

The 2022 Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment

What:

The Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment was a week-long evaluation of experimental products and services for improving aviation forecasting techniques. A total of 18 participants ranging from developers to forecasters engaged in activities to 1) enhance the Traffic Flow Management Convective Forecast, 2) develop outlook impact graphics for general aviation users, and 3) provide feedback on the updated www.AviationWeather.gov site.

When:

13–16 September 2022

Where:

Kansas City, Missouri

The 2022 Aviation Weather Testbed (AWT) Summer Experiment took place 13–16 September at the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City, Missouri, fully in-person for the first time since 2019. Participants (Fig. 1) included operational forecasters from AWC, National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices and Center Weather Service Units, developers from the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), Environmental Modeling Center (EMC), and Weather Prediction Center (WPC), and one private sector meteorologist from Southwest Airlines. Furthermore, a meeting of central region meteorologists-in-charge, an Operations Proving Ground (OPG) test, and a visit from new NWS Director, Ken Graham, all within the same building created a palpable buzz throughout the week.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Group photo of the Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment 2022 participants. In addition to spending the days together in the Testbed, many participants spent time together after hours enjoying Kansas City and each other’s company. Participants often leave the AWT with connections and friendships that last for years to come.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 104, 4; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0273.1

The AWT presented two themes or “desks,” one looking at evolving the Traffic Flow Management Convective Forecast (TCF) and the other exploring producing days 1–3 impact outlook graphics for general aviation (GA) customers. GA includes all civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services, and nonscheduled air transport operations (e.g., firefighting, banner towing, medevac). A third, “come and go” desk invited feedback on the “beta” AWC website (Fig. 2), a redesign of the primary means by which many GA and commercial airline customers receive products. Participants floated between desks over a 3-day period, using real-time data to craft experimental products and meeting as a whole for brown bag lunch presentations and end-of-day debriefs. The experiment design encouraged nearly continual small and large group discussions.

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Participants were also given the opportunity to provide feedback on an experimental redesign of AviationWeather.gov. The image above shows a snapshot of the revamped version of the website, which has an updated look and feel, provides more streamlined data graphics, and is much more mobile friendly.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 104, 4; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0273.1

The TCF desk tested moving product creation from national center software to the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS-2) and providing forecasters with experimental Rapid Refresh Forecast System (RRFS) and Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS; Jones et al. 2020) real-time runs. WoFS also allowed the group to explore filling the “watch-to-warning” gap between the operational convective SIGMET1 (0–1 h) and TCF (4–8 h); participants issued an experimental 2-h TCF (Fig. 3). Forecasters reported being happy with RRFS coverage and placement of convection, and WoFS feedback was also positive. One survey respondent stated, “WoFS was a great addition to the TCF workflow. Worked really well with the 2-hour and 4-hour forecasts.” Participants felt a primary challenge would be presenting watch-to-warning information in a way that can be effectively received and applied by users.

Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

Images depict a combination radar reflectivity and echo-top-height field used as verification for the TCF. The outer (inner) hatched blue objects are participant forecasts of instantaneous sparse (medium) convective coverage valid at 2100 UTC 14 Sep 2022. Along with other tools, these forecasts were made with the addition of (left) 4-h lead-time experimental RRFS and (right) 2-h lead-time WoFS output.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 104, 4; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0273.1

The Impact Outlook Graphics desk explored how to best produce an outlook for aviation impacts covering 24-h periods across days 1–3, following the model used at other national centers. Working over the contiguous United States, participants drew areas of hazards (Fig. 4) that would be most impactful for GA pilots while prioritizing consistency across NWS products. Discussion revolved around augmenting the WPC national forecast charts, which also present days 1–3 hazards, to serve aviation interests. While product design and workflow were the focus, the next step will be to discuss this concept with GA and commercial airline users.

Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.

An example of a participant-generated outlook graphic, which highlights areas of expected hazards for general aviation impacts valid for a 24-h period. Participants provided feedback throughout the week on what hazards should be included, what colors and patterns should be used to depict those hazards, and if any additional information should be provided along with the graphics to better inform the user.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 104, 4; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0273.1

Friday morning focus groups afforded an opportunity to synthesize the many discussions held throughout the week. Participants expressed confidence in the RRFS and WoFS, but were unsure how best to apply them. There were concerns about workload on the AWC TCF desk, and uncertainty as to whether customers are open to “watch-to-warning” style information for aviation route planning. The challenge of introducing new tools among a customer base whose operations are fast-paced and well-honed was a common theme. At the conclusion of the week, participants expressed how beneficial it is to network and interact with each other in person. While AWC gained insightful feedback on potential future products, the true value of such an experiment is the connections and perspectives gained by each participant that will help advance the entire aviation weather community.

1

SIGMET stands for significant meteorological information.

Acknowledgments.

We would like to acknowledge the AWC management and administrative staff for their support throughout the planning and execution of the experiment, Curtis Alexander and the rest of the RRFS development team at the ESRL Global System Lab for providing real-time experimental RRFS data, and Amy Campbell from the Weather Prediction Center for providing insight and guidance on developing an outlook graphic.

Data availability statement.

This experiment was designed to foster brainstorming, and did not produce quantifiable data. Anecdotal outcomes are documented in online graphics associated with this article.

Reference

Jones, T. A., and Coauthors, 2020: Assimilation of GOES-16 radiances and retrievals into the Warn-on-Forecast System. Mon. Wea. Rev., 148, 18291859, https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-19-0379.1.

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  • Jones, T. A., and Coauthors, 2020: Assimilation of GOES-16 radiances and retrievals into the Warn-on-Forecast System. Mon. Wea. Rev., 148, 18291859, https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-19-0379.1.

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  • Fig. 1.

    Group photo of the Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment 2022 participants. In addition to spending the days together in the Testbed, many participants spent time together after hours enjoying Kansas City and each other’s company. Participants often leave the AWT with connections and friendships that last for years to come.

  • Fig. 2.

    Participants were also given the opportunity to provide feedback on an experimental redesign of AviationWeather.gov. The image above shows a snapshot of the revamped version of the website, which has an updated look and feel, provides more streamlined data graphics, and is much more mobile friendly.

  • Fig. 3.

    Images depict a combination radar reflectivity and echo-top-height field used as verification for the TCF. The outer (inner) hatched blue objects are participant forecasts of instantaneous sparse (medium) convective coverage valid at 2100 UTC 14 Sep 2022. Along with other tools, these forecasts were made with the addition of (left) 4-h lead-time experimental RRFS and (right) 2-h lead-time WoFS output.

  • Fig. 4.

    An example of a participant-generated outlook graphic, which highlights areas of expected hazards for general aviation impacts valid for a 24-h period. Participants provided feedback throughout the week on what hazards should be included, what colors and patterns should be used to depict those hazards, and if any additional information should be provided along with the graphics to better inform the user.

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