The system may especially useful for those remote oceanic regions for which no reliable forecast system exists. NASA said the technology delivers 8-hour forecasts of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions by using satellite data and computer weather models to produce maps of storms over much of the world's oceans.
The forecasts, which are published on the NCAR website, are updated every 3 hours and cover "most of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where NCAR has real-time access to geostationary satellite data." According to NASA, the detection of storms over the oceans "is far more challenging than it is over land because geostationary satellites, unlike ground-based radar, cannot see within the clouds." As a result, pilots may not be informed about quickly developing storms.
NASA said that the NCAR forecasts are compiled by identifying particularly high cloud tops and water vapor at high altitudes, both of which "are a sign of powerful storms and strong updrafts that can buffet an aircraft." Using fuzzy logic, data fusion as well as object techniques and simulations of wind fields allow the researchers to predict storm locations.
"These new forecasts can help fill an important gap in our aviation system," said NCAR's Cathy Kessinger, lead researcher on the project. "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 eight-hour period, the system can contribute to both the safety and comfort of passengers on flights."