The 2008 CoSPA forecast demonstration (Collaborative Storm Prediction for Aviation)
January 11, 2009
Air traffic congestion caused by convective weather in the US has become a serious national problem. Several studies have shown that there is a critical need for timely, reliable and high quality forecasts of precipitation and echo tops with forecast time horizons of up to 12 hours in order to predict airspace capacity (Robinson et al. 2008, Evans et al. 2006 and FAA REDAC Report 2007). Yet, there are currently several forecast systems available to strategic planners across the National Airspace System (NAS) that are not fully meeting Air Traffic Management (ATM) needs. Furthermore, the use of many forecasting systems increases the potential for conflicting information in the planning process, which can cause situational awareness problems between operational facilities. One of the goals of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is to consolidate these redundant and sometimes conflicting forecast systems into a Single Authoritative Source (SAS) for aviation uses. The FAA initiated an effort to begin consolidating these systems in 2006, which led to the establishment of a collaboration between MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT LL), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Research Applications Laboratory (RAL), the NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) Global Systems Division (GSD) and NASA, called the Consolidated Storm Prediction for Aviation (CoSPA; Wolfson et al. 2008). The on-going collaboration is structured to leverage the expertise and technologies of each laboratory to build a CoSPA forecast capability that not only exceeds all current operational forecast capabilities and skill, but that provides enough resolution and skill to meet the demands of the envisioned NextGen decision support technology. The current CoSPA prototype for 0-6 hour forecasts is planned for operation as part of the NextGen Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2013. CoSPA is funded under the FAA's Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP). The first CoSPA research prototype demonstration was conducted during the summer of 2008. Technologies from the Corridor Integrated Weather System (CIWS; Evans and Ducot 2006), National Convective Weather Forecast (NCWF; Megenhardt et al. 2004), and NOAA’s Rapid Update Cycle (RUC; Benjamin et al. 2004) and High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR; Benjamin et al. 2009) models were consolidated along with new technologies into a single high-resolution forecast and display system. Historically, forecasts based on heuristics and extrapolation have performed well in the 0-2 hour window, whereas forecasts based on Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models have shown better performance than heuristics past 3-4 hours (Figure 1). One of the goals of CoSPA is to optimally blend heuristics and NWP models into a unified set of aviation-specific storm forecast products with the best overall performance possible. The CoSPA prototype demonstration began in July 2008 with 2-6 hr forecasts of Vertically-Integrated Liquid water (VIL) that seamlessly matched with the 0-2 hr VIL forecasts available in CIWS. These real-time forecasts have been made available to the research team and FAA management only through a web-based interface. This paper discusses the system infrastructure, the forecast display, the forecast technology and performance of the 2-6 hr VIL forecast. Our early assessment based on the 2008 demonstration is that CoSPA is showing tremendous promise for greatly improving strategic storm forecasts for the NAS. Early user feedback during CoSPA briefings suggested that the 6 hr forecast time horizon be extended to 8 hours to better meet their planning functions, and that forecasts of Echo Tops must also be included.