SFO marine stratus forecast system documentation
October 17, 2006
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) experiences frequent low ceiling conditions during the summer season due to marine stratus clouds. Stratus in the approach zone prevents dual approaches to the airport??s closely spaced parallel runways, effectively reducing arrival capacity by half. The stratus typically behaves on a daily cycle, with dissipation occurring during the hours following sunrise. Often the low ceiling conditions persist throughout the morning hours and interfere with the high rate of air traffic scheduled into SFO from mid-morning to early afternoon. Air traffic managers require accurate forecasts of clearing time to efficiently administer Ground Delay Programs (GDPs) to match the rate of arriving aircraft with expected capacity. The San Francisco Marine Stratus Forecast System was developed as a tool for anticipating the time of stratus clearing. The system relies on field-deployed sensors as well as routinely available regional surface observations and satellite data from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-West). Data are collected, processed, and input to a suite of forecast models to predict the time that the approach zone will be sufficiently clear to perform dual approaches. Data observations and model forecasts are delivered to users on an interactive display accessible via the Internet. The system prototype was developed under the sponsorship of the FAA Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP). MIT Lincoln Laboratory served as technical lead for the project, in collaboration with San Jose State University, the University of Quebec at Montreal, and the Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) at the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The National Weather Service (NWS), under the direction of the NWS Forecast Office in Monterey, assumed responsibility for operation and maintenance of the system following technical transfer in 2004. This document was compiled as a resource to support continuing system operation and maintenance.