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Volume 1, February 2012

Welcome From the AMDAR Panel Chairman

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the very first AMDAR Newsletter issued by the World Meteorological Organization AMDAR Panel.

The Global Aircraft Meteorological DAta Relay (AMDAR) Programme is a very successful and growing meteorological observing system under the WMO World Weather Watch Programme.

The AMDAR concept of automatic measurement of atmospheric conditions using aircraft as a platform, is not new. In the early 1900s simple instruments were attached to aircraft and pilots, in their open aircraft, received bonuses for every HectoPascal (Millibar) they could fly above a minimum standard level. However, the development and mass production of radiosondes led to the use of aircraft for atmospheric measurement lying dormant for many decades. Then, during the First Global (Global Atmospheric Research Programme) GARP Experiment (FGGE), 1978-1979, modern aircraft were used again as an additional observing system providing upper air data complementary to the other observing systems available, such as radiosondes, drifting buoys, ships and satellites. This aircraft monitoring system was called ASDAR (Aircraft to Satellite DAta Relay) because the data was transmitted via the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite System (METEOSAT, GOES) to the ground. Fifteen large military and commercial aircraft were equipped with a specially developed ASDAR system and the data was considered a very useful complement to other upper air measurement systems.

The advent of flight computers in modern aircraft allowed an alternative approach to ASDAR by tapping the data from innate systems and instruments on the aircraft. In addition to alleviating the requirement to fit aircraft with expensive, purpose-built hardware, this approach made it possible to retrieve valuable atmospheric information and transmit it in real-time using the aircraft communications system through the installation of a dedicated software package only. This new approach was called AMDAR.

In order to coordinate and promote the development of national (and regional) AMDAR programmes, the WMO Executive Council decided at its forty-ninth session in 1997 to establish a Panel on AMDAR, composed of WMO Members that operated, or intended to operate, national AMDAR programmes. After a preparatory and establishment meeting in November 1997, De Bilt, The Netherlands, the first formal meeting of the AMDAR Panel took place in 1998 at the WMO headquarters in Geneva.

Since that date, the development of the Global AMDAR Programme has been very rapid and many WMO Members have established national AMDAR programmes or participate in a regional AMDAR programme, which has led to the establishment of a global programme that currently generates around 250,000 to 300,000 upper air observations per day.

There are however still large parts of the world where insufficient or even no upper air data are available. One of the AMDAR Panel’s objectives therefore is to promote and coordinate the development of AMDAR programmes in these regions. But that can only be achieved with the help and support of the National Meteorological services and the National Airlines.

The AMDAR Panel activities are funded by the AMDAR Panel Trust Fund. It is very encouraging to see that so many Member States recognize the work of the Panel and support its activities through their annual contributions to the Trust Fund. This is certainly the foundation of the success of the Global AMDAR Programme.

In this volume of the Newsletter you will read about the history and the current status of three AMDAR programmes: the Australian AMDAR programme, the US MDCRS/AMDSAR programme and the European E-AMDAR programme. You will also find articles about the evolution in AMDAR data availability, the recently held Mexico Regional AMDAR Workshop and the developing IAGOS atmospheric aerosol monitoring programme, an extension of the AMDAR concept.

The AMDAR Panel and in particular its Chairman and Technical Coordinator, welcomes any questions or comments on the Global AMDAR Programme and any interest in the development and coordination of new national programmes. The names and contact details can be found at the end of this Newsletter.


Frank Grooters, Chairman of the WMO AMDAR Panel


Aircraft Observations Long-term Growth Continues

Despite the Global Financial Crisis and its inevitable impact on the aviation industry, and in the wake of some significant changes to national AMDAR programmes for economic and efficiency, the output of total aircraft and AMDAR observations on the World Meteorological Organization Global Telecommunications System (GTS) has continued its overall growth over the past two decades.

This graphic shows the average daily observations (single point measurements made by an aircraft in space and time) transmitted on the GTS since 2003 as contributed by all aircraft and all systems (blue), by the AMDAR Programme with reports submitted in binary format (BUFR, red), by the AMDAR Programme with reports submitted in text format (FM42, green) and by ICAO data sources (AIREP and ADS, magenta).

Average daily total aircraft observations levels in 2011 climbed to over 300,000 reports per day, whilst the contribution from the AMDAR Programme (BUFR + FM42) is generally producing between 250,000 and 300,000 reports per day.

With large areas of the globe still not well covered by the AMDAR Programme and with plans to develop programmes over South America, Africa and other data-sparse areas over the coming decade, there is an expectation that this growth will continue into the future and ensure this high impact meteorological observing system will deliver even greater benefit to aviation forecasting and other meteorological applications.

For further information see: http://www.wmo.int/amdar/AMDARStatistics.html

Mexico Regional AMDAR Workshop

Immediately following the annual Joint Meeting of the ET-AIR and the AMDAR Panel held in Canada, 2-4 November 2011, a small number of Panel members and other Aviation and AMDAR data experts travelled to Mexico City to lead a scientific and technical workshop on AMDAR.
 
The workshop was organised together with the US NOAA National Weather Service and hosted by the Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA) with the support of its Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (SMN) over 8-10 November, 2011. This effort is part of a bilateral agreement between the United States and Mexico to improve the meteorological observing system in Central and South America.

In a joint activity in the lead up to the workshop, ARINC, SMN and Aeroméxico, the national airline targeted for AMDAR participation, already had demonstrated that development of a programme within its fleet  was viable so that, during the workshop, the results of this prototype Mexican AMDAR Programme were discussed and plans made for its advancement.

Photo: From left to right, Mr Frank Grooters, AMDAR Panel Chairperson, Ms Perla Flores, SMN Workshop Coordinator, Mr Carl Weiss, AMDAR Panel Vice-chairperson, Dr. Felipe Adrian Vazquez, Director of SMN.

Throughout the workshop 38 Participants were presented with 20 presentations that described in detail various topics related to AMDAR including: technology, systems, software, techniques, data and quality management. The workshop programme also included discussion with and advice to the representatives of four nations (Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Brazil) on how to initiate and operate a national AMDAR programme and how the AMDAR Panel can support and coordinate this development.

The workshop was considered a great success and the AMDAR Panel is looking forward with confidence to the establishment of a fully operational Mexican AMDAR programme and to other AMDAR initiatives in the Central and South American region.

JetStar Provides Valuable Extension to Australian and Global AMDAR Program

By 2001, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's AMDAR Program had been running for more than a decade and was providing a valuable contribution to Australian and global meteorological applications. Domestic carrier, Ansett Airlines provided data mainly from short flights between Australian regional centres. This was complemented well by data from national flagship carrier Qantas flying predominantly on international routes from state capitals. However, with the corporate collapse of Ansett in late 2001, almost overnight, the AMDAR program lost about half of its data stream, and most of the data from Australian regional centres. It was not until 2009 and with the advent of a ground-based software and data control system developed by the Bureau, that Qantas was able to implement AMDAR within its domestic aircraft fleet, allowing the Bureau to recover AMDAR data coverage over regional Australia.

The Bureau, realising the importance of building some redundancy into the program in future to prevent such a diminution of AMDAR data coverage, continued its campaign to recruit another airline to the program. Discussions with JetStar Australia and JetStar Asia commenced in 2006, but only in the final weeks of 2011 did the Bureau commence receiving data routinely from the newly AMDAR-configured JetStar fleet in flight test mode.  At present this comprises, 18 Airbus A320 (JetStar Australia) flying Australian domestic and regional routes and 10, Airbus A320 flying throughout SE-Asia and Australian major centres.

The recruitment of JetStar Australia to the program provides the opportunity to acquire profiles from 10 new regional centres not visited by Qantas. JetStar Asia, operating from their Singapore hub, provides the opportunity to acquire profiles from 25-30 sites across SE-Asia. Once the JetStar AMDAR data quality has been verified, it will be disseminated on the WMO Global Telecommunications System, after which the Bureau hopes to begin working towards activating the full optimisation potential through uplinking to the JetStar fleet.

The figure shows Australian AMDAR flights over a 24-hr period. On this particular occasion the SkyTraders A319 was flying between Perth and the remote Indian Ocean Australian territory of Christmas Island.


The European AMDAR Programme

Brief History of E-AMDAR


Within Europe, National Met Services (NMHS) initially started individual AMDAR Programmes with their National carriers: KLM (1993), Air France (1995), British Airways & SAS (1998) and Lufthansa (1999). Each NMHS was responsible for data transmission onto the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Global Telecommunications System. The UK Met Office developed a data processing system to handle British Airways data and the opportunity to provide a single processing system for European data.

EUMETNET-AMDAR (E-AMDAR) was developed to demonstrate advantages of European collaboration, increased efficiency of the regional AMDAR Programmes and share financing of AMDAR Programmes. The Operational Network was established in June 2000 by the Met Office in which 10 National Met Services (EUMETNET Members) agreed to contribute. This Programme “Pilot Phase” extended to 2002.

In January 2003, E-AMDAR became an integral component of the EUCOS Programme, managed by Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) for the programme period 2003-2006 and 2007-2012, with a general objective to fulfil the requirements of the EUCOS Operational Programme, to provide measurements of high quality upper air meteorological variables from aircraft.

Current Program Status

The Programme has grown to include 13 European airlines which provide more than 800 aircraft capable of reporting meteorological data.
The participating airlines are: Air France, Blue1 (Finland), British Airways. easyJet , Finnair, KLM, Lufthansa Passage, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Italia, Lufthansa Regional, Novair (Sweden) SAS and Thomas Cook Scandinavia (Denmark).

On a daily basis about 500 aircraft are reporting, providing 40 000 – 45 000 high quality observations of temperature and wind in a timely manner from airports and cruise level flights, both in the EUCOS Area and also outside, as a contribution to the WMO World Weather Watch (WWW) Programme.



The Programme has also developed a set of "Data Optimization" systems to define where, when and how observations are made by participating aircraft. This has increased the flexibility of the programme and at the same time avoids reporting of redundant observations, thus lowering the costs.

A trial of sensors for the measurement of water vapour and humidity commenced in late 2006 with three aircraft from Lufthansa equipped with humidity sensors (WVSS-II v2  from SpectraSensors Inc.). An upgraded version (WVSS-II v3) has been tested, which has been shown to fully comply with WMO measurement standards.

U.S. MDCRS/AMDAR PROGRAM

Aircraft safety and operating efficiency are greatly affected by the accuracy of weather forecasting, which, in part, is limited by the availability of real-time weather observations—the basis for all weather prediction.  In recognition of this, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) obligates member nations to have a program for the observing, recordingand reporting of weather observations from aircraft operating on international air routes.

ARINC provides the Meteorological Data Collection and Reporting System (MDCRS) service to the National Weather Service (NWS) as a source of upper-air meteorological observations.  Under a contract with the FAA, ARINC receives meteorological data automatically collected and transmitted in near realtime from en-route aircraft using the Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS).  These reports are transmitted from Very High Frequency (VHF), Satellite (Satcom) or High Frequency Datalink (HFDL) radios on the aircraft to ARINC’s Central Processing System (CPS) in Annapolis, Maryland.  ARINC’s systems automatically collate, reformat, store and distribute the information to the NWS for use in weather forecasting activities.  Typical meteorological data includes wind speed and direction, pressure altitude, air temperature and aircraft position.  Some aircraft operated by Southwest Airlines and United Parcel Service also provide water vapor information.   The MDCRS objective is to improve NWS forecasting and reporting to help airlines optimize flight routes while avoiding severe weather.

Participating Airlines 

Seven major airlines currently participate in the MDCRS program.  These include Alaska, American, Delta, Fed Ex, Southwest, United and United Parcel Service.  Collectively, over 2,000 aircraft operated by these airlines participate in the MDCRS program and provideabout 200,000 real-time, automated weather reports per day.  ARINC receives meteorological reports from the participating aircraft operating anywhere in the world.

ARINC’s Role

ARINC’s collects the ACARS meteorological reports and converts them to the Binary Universal Form for Data Representation (BUFR) format to allow automatic entry into NWS communications networks.  The data are packaged and transmitted to the NWS at configurable time intervals, based on NWS requirements.  24 X 7 troubleshooting and on-call engineering support for MDCRS is provided through the ARINC Operations Center. 

General Operation of System

The Aircraft Condition Monitoring System (ACMS) onboard the aircraft automatically collects meteorological data from various aircraft systems, embeds the data into an ACARS message, and sends it to the aircraft’s Management Unit, which downlinks the information to the ARINC Central Processing System (CPS).  The CPS passes the information toARINC’s MDCRS server, which converts the data to BUFR format and transmits it to NWS.

U.S. AMDAR Program Increasing WVSS-II Coverage

The United States AMDAR component, Meteorological  Data Collection and Reporting System (MDCRS), continues to add installations of the second generation of the Water Vapor Sensing System, WVSS-II.  Through its prime contractor, ARINC, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) currently has 55 WVSS-II units in operation in the MDCRS network. Twenty-five units have been installed on United Parcel Service, UPS, 757-200 aircraft, and 30 units on Southwest Airlines (SWA) 737-300 aircraft with one more planned in January 2012, bringing the total to 56.  The coverage of the U.S. WVSS-II network can be seen in this 24 hour composite of WVSS-II data from December 29, 2011.

As of October 2011, the U.S. WVSS-II sensor data is being assimilated into the NWS North American Model (NAM).  This is a significant milestone for the U.S. AMDAR program, and will significantly increase the benefits of WVSS-II to all forecast operations.

A team effort, led by SpectraSensors, Inc., is nearing completion of a project to achieve a Supplemental Type Certification (STC) for WVSS-II on the 737-700 aircraft.  The first WVSS-II installation on a 737-700 is planned in January at SWA.  The STC is expected to be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in March of this year.  Upon approval of the STC, an additional 35 units will be delivered and installed on SWA 737-700 aircraft.  With these 36 units planned in 2012, this will bring the MDCRS total to 92 WVSS-II equipped aircraft.

Alaska Airlines Added to U.S. AMDAR Program

Alaska Airlines has become the seventh U.S. Air Carrier to share its observations with NOAA as of March 2011.Alaska Airlines commenced providing wind and temperature observations from 110 B737 aircraft.

With destinations from Barrowto Mexico City to Hawaii (below), Alaska Airlines is delivering valuable data that will help forecast weather systems moving into western North America. These data also will aid in the prediction of monsoonal flow and cut-off low pressure systems over northwest Mexico and southwestern U.S.

Preparation of the IAGOS European Research Infrastructure Continues

The IAGOS infrastructure is now at the end of the third year of its preparatory phase and it had its annual Meeting at the University of Manchester, UK, last September.

Among the highlights of this past year, the operation of the first IAGOS equipped aircraft, on July 8 at Deutsche Lufthansa was a significant milestone as it provided the certification of the European Aeronautical Safety Agency (EASA) to the Airbus A-340 aircraft equipped with the new IAGOS instrumentation. This development provides the way forward for equipping other prospective IAGOS aircraft of companies such as Air France and Iberia. Other certifications are currently underway for the A-330 aircraft and at other aeronautical safety agencies (Taiwan, United States).

Researchers in the United States have created a working group “IAGOS in the USA” to improve understanding of the impacts of trace gases and Particulate Matter on air quality and climate change. The aim is to vastly increase their measurement capabilities through the installation of IAGOS equipment on U.S.-based commercial aircraft.

After past volcanic ash events over Europe, IAGOS took a leading role in the preparation of the “WMO/IAGOS Technical Experts Workshop on Requirements for In-Service Aircraft Aerosol Measurement Systems”, in Geneva, March 2011. Its key objectives are to establish a link between aerosol dose on aircraft and engines and their maintenance requirements as well as to improve the unambiguous detection of volcanic ash and mineral dust particles by simple and robust instruments suitable for on-board instrumentation of civil aircraft.

Among the regular activities of the infrastructure preparatory phase, real-time data transmission has also progressed at Météo-France with the development of a RTTU (Real-Time Transmission Unit) prototype at the company ATMOSPHERE. Functional tests should be performed in early 2012 from the first IAGOS equipped aircraft of DLH to the E-ADAS (E-AMDAR Data Acquisition System). A cooperation with IAGOS was agreed by Eumetnet at its general assembly of May 2011. it allows the use of E-ADAS as a reception facility for the real-time IAGOS reports and their emission over the WMO Global Telecommunication System. The effective transmission of IAGOS reports to real-time users at air quality and weather prediction centres will however not take place before 2014, after installation and aeronautical certification of the RTTU equipment. Certifications of additional IAGOS instruments for the measurement of Greenhouses Gases and aerosols will by completed in the last year of the IAGOS project, in 2012.

For more information see http://www.iagos.org/

WMO AMDAR Panel Chairman

Mr Frank Grooters
Prunuslaan 17
NL-3723 WC Bilthoven
The Netherlands
Tel :   +31 30 229 3250
Mob : +31 6 1122 5867
Email : fgrooters@gmail.com
WMO AMDAR Panel Vice-chair

Mr Carl Weiss
NOAA/NWS National Weather Service
1325 East, West Highway
SILVER SPRING 20910-3283
United States of America
Tel: +1-301-7131726-149
Email: carl.weiss@noaa.gov
WMO Scientific Officer, Aircraft Observations

Mr Dean Lockett
World Meteorological Organization
7 bis, avenue de la Paix
Case Postale No. 2300
CH-1211 GENEVA 2
Switzerland
Tel: +41-22-7308323
Email: dlockett@wmo.int

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