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WINTER OPERATIONS


Technology and weather forecasting


David Gibbs, Aviation Business Manager for the Met Office discusses the role of technology in the production and delivery of forecasts for airports.


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elivering weather forecasts and meteorological advice that is easy to access, easy to understand and directly relevant for aviation purposes is


extremely important for the safety and operational and financial efficiency of airports. However, without timely and highly precise meteorological observations, forecasts are severely degraded. To achieve the necessary standards and accuracy of global observations required, presents a significant technological challenge. Forecasting the weather the future state of the atmosphere starts by looking at the current state of the atmosphere as indicated by the huge volume of observations - and then applying the understanding of the physical processes that govern changes in temperature, wind and cloud over time. This also means solving enormous numbers of complex mathematical equations which can only be achieved with the help of supercomputing power.


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THE POWER BEHIND THE FORECAST At the Met Office we use an IBM supercomputer which can do more than 100 trillion calculations a second. Its power allows it to take in hundreds of thousands of weather observations from all over the world, which it then takes as a starting point for running an atmospheric model containing more than one million lines of code.


Without computers, weather forecasting as we


know it today would not be possible, and we would not be able to deliver socio-economic benefits, such as reducing CO2 emissions. For example, our global aviation forecasts allow airlines to save fuel by using the wind to help them to their destination. We have estimated this alone helps save around 20 million tonnes of CO2 a year through increased efficiency. Such is the power of today’s computers, they can


now run ‘ensemble forecasts’ - meaning they can run a model several times - each one from a slightly different


AF / July 2013 / 15


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