Watching the weather – forecasting climate and environmental trends to minimise airport disruptions

14 April, 2021

In our personal lives watching the weather may simply be about whether we need to wear a jumper, coat or grab an umbrella before we set off for the day. Prior warning of a rain storm, strong winds can influence our plans, but being aware of future weather fronts is essential for many businesses, none more so than across the aviation industry where it can have a profound impact on activities.

Weather can significantly affect airline and aircraft operations and while this can considerably inconvenience travellers through delayed and cancelled flights, it is a critical safety issue. Low cloud, fog and rain may impede visibility at or around an airport while thunderstorms and lightning can cause serious disruption to flight schedules.

Air service providers note that thunderstorms, and the rapidly rising or falling air currents which usually accompany them, can make air travel uncomfortable for passengers and difficult for pilots in control of aircraft. Aircraft are unable to take-off or land during a storm and will often be re-routed around storm cells or diverted from their destinations. Thunderstorms and lightning strikes near airports may also stop ground operations until they pass.

Even when the skies are clear, the wind, particularly its speed and direction, has a daily impact on airport operations. It is the major factor to determine which runways to use at an airport, in which direction aircraft will take off and land and which flight paths are used. Aircraft must take off and land into the wind or with minimal tail wind. This means current and forecast wind direction dictates the selection of runway/s in use at any time and can change at very short notice.

As such airline and airport operations weather forecast solutions are critical system used across the world to help improve safety, efficiency and performance. Weather can – and does – significantly affect airport operations. It is a complex scenario where every decision must account across a wide range of factors, such as safety, timing, aircraft functionality and airline profitability.

At the Mar-2021 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform – Elizabeth Krajewski, IBM Aviation offering management leader, provided some insights into how airports are using the IBM Weather Operations Operations Center for Airports to continuously monitor weather conditions and stay informed of potential impacts.

Most noticeably, she had a warning for the industry that corporate travellers and travel managers and buyers should take particular notice, that "science indicates that... extreme weather events are going to continue to increase in intensity and frequency... as we head into a warmer climate with climate change".

“The expectation is more intense, longer duration, more frequent significant events. Weather is going to continue to become a critical aspect of... planning and operation for years to come", for both airports and flight routing, she added.

Ms Krajewski explained how, by using this weather-based solution, they are able to prevent injuries and property damage, reduce the number and cost of cancellations and delays and minimise ground congestion. Such platforms help airlines and airports improve operations with inflight weather data, tracking and decision support. These insights help users control costs, enhance safety and improve efficiency – while enhancing both the shipping for greater visibility into the supply chain and passenger experience.

You can watch the insightful presentation in its entirety here:

CAPA Live is the most sought-after monthly global aviation event. Taking place on the second Wednesday of each month, thousands of industry colleagues from across the globe tune in for their monthly dose of aviation and travel news, analysis, and in-depth interviews with industry leaders. You can access the latest agenda and register to be part of its growing community to access the latest edition and archive content at: CAPA Live