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System gives storm forecasts for flights

Dec. 11, 2012 at 8:37 PM   |   Comments

BOULDER, Colo., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Researchers in a NASA-funded weather program say a new forecasting system can help airliners avoid major storms as they travel over remote ocean regions.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research say the system's 8-hour advance forecasts of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions can help pilots, air traffic controllers and others involved in transoceanic flights.

The system combines satellite data and computer weather models to produce maps of storms over much of the world's oceans, an NCAR release reported Wednesday.

Work on the system was spurred in part by the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, which encountered an unexpected and unforeseen complex of thunderstorms over the Atlantic Ocean.

"These new forecasts can help fill an important gap in our aviation system," NCAR lead researcher Cathy Kessinger said.

"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 8-hour period, the system can contribute to both the safety and comfort of passengers on flights over the ocean."

The forecasts, updated every 3 hours, are for most areas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans where NCAR has real-time access to geostationary satellite data, the researchers said.

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