Consolidated Storm Prediction for Aviation (CoSPA)

The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is a national priority designed to meet the air transportation needs of the US in the 21st century—in particular, a significant growth in demand for air traffic services, possibly on the order of three times today's demand levels.  Since weather conditions can seriously restrict aircraft operations and levels of service available to system users, the manner by which weather is observed, forecast, disseminated, and used in decision-making is of critical importance. 

Web display of CoSPA analysis and forecast products, including select routes.
Web display of CoSPA analysis and forecast products, including select routes.

For more than two decades the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has funded research and development efforts aimed at improving short-term forecasting of storm hazards affecting aviation.  This effort brings together researchers from NCAR's Research Applications Laboratory, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and NOAA ESRL's Global Systems Division to create 0-8 hour forecasts of precipitation phase and intensity and echo top heights.  The forecasts are generated utilizing an advanced blending technique that merges heuristic-based extrapolation forecasts produced by MIT Lincoln Laboratory with output from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model running at NCEP.  The forecast system is being developed to satisfy the current needs of Air Traffic Management (ATM), as well as the future demands of NextGen, in which much of the strategic air traffic decision-making will be made utilizing automated decision support tools based on gridded probabilistic forecasts. 

Highlights

Since 2010 CoSPA encompasses the entire continental US as well as parts of the Gulf of Mexico, Eastern Atlantic and Southern Canada.  A major milestone was reached during the summer 2010 when CoSPA was fielded at a number of FAA and airline facilities, and used in the daily operational aviation planning process for a first time.  The extensive operational evaluation conducted during the summer 2010 demonstrated substantial benefits of CoSPA to daily ATM planning.

CoSPA forecasts continue to be made available to aviation planners via a web-based display from April through October (i.e., convective season) and, since fall 2015, also throughout the rest of the year (winter season).  The display allows users to overlay airports and associated arrival and departure fixes, route structures, and sectors on current and forecast weather facilitating the product’s utility. The CoSPA forecast products have been in use as a supplemental product for many years and are currently undergoing technology transfer to the FAA.

The final version of CoSPA will be delivered for installation as part of the FAA’s NextGen Weather Processor (NWP) in August of 2018.

ONGOING RESEARCH

Research and development has continued toward improving the CoSPA forecast system as well as the system architecture.  Major enhancements have recently focused on speeding up the algorithm to allow for a 5 min update rate as well as improving the treatment of storm initiation in the blending algorithm. Improved skill was been achieved by using forecast uncertainty information to inform the blending. Forecast uncertainty is estimated using a time-lagged ensemble of HRRR runs. Areas that have a high probability are given greater weight than areas of lower probability. This new method of blending will be included in the final release which is planned for August 2018.

REAL-TIME DISPLAY

The real-time CoSPA products can be accessed via a password-protected website (https://cospa.wx.ll.mit.edu) hosted by MIT Lincoln Laboratory.