Commercial flights gather crucial data for weather computer models

Weather Blog

Did you know that weather computer models that are used by weather forecasters and meteorologists all over the world rely on commercial airlines?

Believe it or not, daily flights are essential as they provide updated data that can be fed into weather models.

American Airlines Passenger Jet set for takeoff at T.F. Green Airport on September 3, 2020

As flights are starting to become more frequent as more people are traveling, more data is being captured. During the peak of the pandemic, airlines shut down and had very limited flights.

Many forecasters believe this took a toll on the performance of our weather models.

Now, that’s not to say it was a direct cause or reason for the poor performance, but it certainly had a negative effect.

The planes have weather instruments at the nose of the plane.

Wind direction, wind speed, air pressure, temperature are among just some of the data that is gathered.

The instruments can also recognize the planes forward speed and motion relative to the ground as well as its altitude.

Information from flights help models paint a clearer picture of the upper atmospheric setup.

The more flights there are, the more data is gathered which then can be fed into the computer weather models. When that happens, it should allow for more accuracy in mid-range forecasts.

The European Centre For Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reported that during the peak of the pandemic, there was an 80% decrease in weather data being gathered.

If all commercial flight data is taken out of weather computer models, this would result in a 15% drop in accuracy according to their study.

There are many more benefits from the data that is gathered.

Surface and upper-air forecasts of wind and temperature.

Thunderstorm formation, location and strength.

Differentiation between rain, snow and freezing rain.

Wind-shear location and intensity, an example would be dangerous low-level jets (strong winds just above the surface).

Low cloud formation and fog formation.

Turbulence location and intensity and jet-stream location and intensity.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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