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PHAK - Chapter 12.pdf

PHAK - Chapter 12.pdf

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PHAK - Chapter 12
PHAK - Chapter 12

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Published by: pipercub2006 on May 29, 2013
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In aviation, weather service is a combined effort of theNational Weather Service (NWS), Federal AviationAdministration (FAA), Department of Defense (DOD), otheraviation groups, and individuals. Because of the increasingneed for worldwide weather services, foreign weatherorganizations also provide vital input.While weather forecasts are not 100 percent accurate,meteorologists, through careful scientific study and computermodeling, have the ability to predict weather patterns, trends,and characteristics with increasing accuracy. Through acomplex system of weather services, government agencies,and independent weather observers, pilots and other aviationprofessionals receive the benefit of this vast knowledge basein the form of up-to-date weather reports and forecasts.These reports and forecasts enable pilots to make informeddecisions regarding weather and flight safety before andduring a flight.
Aviation Weather Services
Chapter 12
The data gathered from surface and upper altitudeobservations form the basis of all weather forecasts,advisories, and briefings. There are four types of weatherobservations: surface, upper air, radar, and satellite.
Surface Aviation Weather Observations
Surface aviation weather observations (METARs) are acompilation of elements of the current weather at individualground stations across the United States. The network ismade up of government and privately contracted facilitiesthat provide continuous up-to-date weather information.Automated weather sources, such as the Automated WeatherObserving Systems (AWOS), Automated Surface ObservingSystems (ASOS), Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC)facilities, as well as other automated facilities, also play amajor role in the gathering of surface observations.Surface observations provide local weather conditions andother relevant information for a radius of five miles of aspecific airport. This information includes the type of report,station identifier, date and time, modifier (as required), wind,visibility, runway visual range (RVR), weather phenomena,sky condition, temperature/dew point, altimeter reading, andapplicable remarks. The information gathered for the surfaceobservation may be from a person, an automated station, oran automated station that is updated or enhanced by a weatherobserver. In any form, the surface observation providesvaluable information about individual airports around thecountry. Although the reports cover only a small radius, thepilot can generate a good picture of the weather over a widearea when many reporting stations are looked at together.
 Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC)
The ARTCC facilities are responsible for maintainingseparation between flights conducted under instrument flightrules (IFR) in the en route structure. Center radars (Air RouteSurveillance Radar (ARSR)) acquire and track transponderreturns using the same basic technology as terminal radars.Earlier center radars displayed weather as an area of slashes(light precipitation) and Hs (moderate rainfall). Because thecontroller could not detect higher levels of precipitation, pilotshad to be wary of areas showing moderate rainfall. Newer radardisplays show weather as three shades of blue. Controllers canselect the level of weather to be displayed. Weather displaysof higher levels of intensity make it difficult for controllers tosee aircraft data blocks, so pilots should not expect air trafficcontrol (ATC) to keep weather displayed continuously.
Upper Air Observations
Observations of upper air weather are more challengingthan surface observations. There are only two methodsby which upper air weather phenomena can be observed:radiosonde observations and pilot weather reports (PIREPs).A radiosonde is a small cubic instrumentation packagewhich is suspended below a six foot hydrogen or heliumfilled balloon. Once released, the balloon rises at a rate of approximately 1,000 feet per minute (fpm). As it ascends,the instrumentation gathers various pieces of data such asair temperature and pressure, as well as wind speed anddirection. Once the information is gathered, it is relayed toground stations via a 300 milliwatt radio transmitter.The balloon flight can last as long as 2 hours or more andcan ascend to altitudes as high as 115,000 feet and drift asfar as 125 miles. The temperatures and pressures experiencedduring the flight can be as low as
130 °F and pressures as lowas a few thousandths of what is experienced at sea level.Since the pressure decreases as the balloon rises in theatmosphere, the balloon expands until it reaches the limitsof its elasticity. This point is reached when the diameter hasincreased to over 20 feet. At this point, the balloon pops andthe radiosonde falls back to Earth. The descent is slowed bymeans of a parachute. The parachute aids in protecting peopleand objects on the ground. Each year over 75,000 balloonsare launched. Of that number, 20 percent are recovered andreturned for reconditioning. Return instructions are printedon the side of each radiosonde.Pilots also provide vital information regarding upper airweather observations and remain the only real-time sourceof information regarding turbulence, icing, and cloud heights.This information is gathered and filed by pilots in flight.Together, PIREPs and radiosonde observations provideinformation on upper air conditions important for flightplanning. Many domestic and international airlines haveequipped their aircraft with instrumentation that automaticallytransmits inflight weather observations through the DataLinksystem to the airline dispatcher who disseminates the data toappropriate weather forecasting authorities.
Radar Observations
Weather observers use four types of radar to provideinformation about precipitation, wind, and weather systems.1. The WSR-88D NEXRAD radar, commonly calledDoppler radar, provides in-depth observations thatinform surrounding communities of impendingweather. Doppler radar has two operational modes:clear air and precipitation. In clear air mode, the radaris in its most sensitive operational mode because aslow antenna rotation allows the radar to sample theatmosphere longer. Images are updated about every10 minutes in this mode.
Figure 12-1.
Example of a weather radar scope.
Figure 12-2.
WSR-88D Weather Radar Echo Intensity Legend.
Weather Radar Echo Intensity
Reflectivity (dBZ) Ranges
<30 dBZ30–40 dBZ>40–5050+ dBZ
Figure 12-3.
WSR-88D Weather Radar Precipitation IntensityTerminology.
Precipitation targets provide stronger return signalstherefore the radar is operated in the Precipitationmode when precipitation is present. A faster antennarotation in this mode allows images to update ata faster rate, approximately every 4 to 6 minutes.Intensity values in both modes are measured in dBZ(decibels of Z) and depicted in color on the radarimage.
[Figure 12-1]
Intensities are correlated tointensity terminology (phraseology) for air trafficcontrol purposes.
[Figure 12-2
 2. FAA terminal doppler weather radar (TDWR), installedat some major airports around the country, also aids inproviding severe weather alerts and warnings to ATC.Terminal radar ensures pilots are aware of wind shear,gust fronts, and heavy precipitation, all of which aredangerous to arriving and departing aircraft.3. The third type of radar commonly used in the detectionof precipitation is the FAA airport surveillance radar.This radar is used primarily to detect aircraft, but italso detects the location and intensity of precipitationwhich is used to route aircraft traffic around severeweather in an airport environment.4. Airborne radar is equipment carried by aircraft tolocate weather disturbances. The airborne radarsgenerally operate in the C or X bands (around 6GHz or around 10 GHz, respectively) permittingboth penetration of heavy precipitation, required fordetermining the extent of thunderstorms, and sufficientreflection from less intense precipitation.
Advancement in satellite technologies has recently allowed forcommercial use to include weather uplinks. Through the useof satellite subscription services, individuals are now able toreceive satellite transmitted signals that provide near real-timeweather information for the North American continent.
Satellite Weather 
Recently private enterprise and satellite technology haveexpanded the realm of weather services. Pilots now havethe capability of receiving continuously updated weatheracross the entire country at any altitude. No longer are pilotsrestricted by radio range or geographic isolations such asmountains or valleys.In addition, pilots no longer have to request specificinformation from weather briefing personnel directly. Whenthe weather becomes questionable, radio congestion oftenincreases, delaying the timely exchange of valuable inflightweather updates for a pilot’s specific route of flight. FlightService Station (FSS) personnel can communicate with onlyone pilot at a time, which leaves other pilots waiting andflying in uncertain weather conditions. Satellite weatherprovides the pilot with a powerful resource for enhancedsituational awareness at any time. Due to continuous satellitebroadcasts, pilots can obtain a weather briefing by looking ata display screen. Pilots have a choice between FAA-certifieddevices or portable receivers as a source of weather data.

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