Aviation safety has improved dramatically since RAL’s discovery of low-level wind shear, once responsible for hundreds of airplane fatalities. Our research engineered ways to detect and convey this hazardous phenomenon, as well as develop training materials instructing pilots when to steer clear. But our aviation safety work wasn’t finished. Further research found ways to discern and address other hazards that threaten aviation safety. Diagnosing and predicting turbulence, icing, visibility, and thunderstorms give air traffic controllers and airlines valuable planning windows, as well as the decision-making tools to avoid these hazards.

Benefits + Impacts

Focus Areas of Research

Business Jet departing a snowy airfield

Weather Expertise

Applying scientific rigor to understand and predict atmospheric processes that generate weather hazards to aviation.

  • Summer & Winter Storms
  • Wind & Wind Shear
  • Turbulence
  • Icing
  • Ceiling & Visibility
  • Volcanic Ash & Space Weather
  • Climate Change
Winter morning at airport. Deicing of airplane before flight.

Operational Weather Sensitivities

Assessing weather sensitivities of flight operations through stakeholder engagement to collaboratively determine needs and requirements for enhanced weather guidance.

  • Commercial, Business, & General Aviation
  • Uncrewed Aerial Systems & Urban Air Mobility
  • Space Launch & Travel
Cockpit radar showing thunderstorms up ahead

Actionable Weather Guidance

Developing weather and associated impact guidance to support operational decisions under uncertainty.

  • Airports, Heliports & Vertiports, etc.
  • En Route – Troposphere
  • Low Altitude – Atmospheric Boundary Layer
  • High Altitude – Stratosphere
Benefits assessment. Red dart arrow hitting in the target center of dartboard Target hit in the center.

Benefits Assessment

Science Serving Society requires in-depth evaluation of the weather impact guidance accuracy as well as the actions undertaken based on utilizing that guidance.

  • Weather Prediction Accuracy
  • Impact Prediction Accuracy
  • Decision Making Effectiveness
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Foundational Capabilities

Our broad scientific and technical expertise builds on many enabling capabilities.

  • Data Services
  • Visualization
  • Numerical Weather Prediction
  • Algorithms
  • Turnkey Systems
  • Consulting, Training & Outreach

Benefits and Impacts

Read how we have met meteorological challenges with creative, practical solutions, and measurable benefits.

GTG is most useful for strategic route planning to avoid turbulence. This technology improves safety, airspace capacity, and efficiency
Lightning alerts are provided with a lead time of up to 30 minutes, with alerts updated every 2 to 5 minutes. Such a capability to alert of impending lightning impacts is of particular interest to… more
With support from USAID, UCAR launched an initiative to print 3D weather stations that can fill observational gaps in developing countries. A single station takes about a week to print at a cost of $… more
WSDMM provides airline and airport operations personnel critical information on the timing and effectiveness of aircraft deicing fluids. Use of the system during de–icing operations has been shown to… more
This system generates alerts for easy interpretation by pilots, controllers, traffic managers and aviation forecasters and allows aircraft to operate safely when operating at this very busy… more
This technology has been adopted by private sector firms and State DOTs saving states millions of dollars annually in anti-icing materials and staff time. A USDOT benefits study indicated that the… more
Saving money, power and time with this LES modeling method. A viable tool for microscale operational, educational, and more comprehensive research applications.
This product is uplinked to airline cockpits via electronic flight bag systems to support safe and efficient flight operations and re-routing decisions.
The JAWS allows aircraft to operate into and out of Juneau Airport in a safe and efficient manner. JAWS-like systems could be used at airports around the United States experiencing similar terrain–… more
TITAN is used for meteorological and hydrological research, forecasting related to aviation, severe weather forecasting, precipitation analysis, and conducting and evaluating weather modification… more
The Current Icing Product (CIP) provides an hourly diagnosis of the potential of encountering airframe icing conditions over the CONUS at 13-km horizontal and 500-ft vertical resolution. The Forecast… more
The HEMS tool became operational at the Aviation Weather Center in 2015. User reports showed ambulance pilots rely on the HEMS tool to make quick, life-saving decisions.
This FAA funded project is a collaborative effort NCAR, MIT-LL, NOAA-ESRL. Annual benefits to the national aviation system are estimated to be $27M.
NTDA is operational on all NEXRAD systems; this technology has helped reduce turbulence-related incidents by diagnosing the location of turbulence near storms.
Since 1996, pilots, dispatchers, the military, airlines, and airports have benefited from increased weather awareness because of the comprehensive weather information available on ADDS. Today,… more
Savings in lives and property is estimated at $1B