Emerging Climate-data Needs in the Air Transport Sector

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Terence Randall Thompson, LMI, McLean, VA, United States
This paper addresses the nature of climate information needed within the air-transport sector. Air transport is not a single economic sector with uniform needs for climate data: airport, airline, and air-navigation services are the principal sub-sectors, each with their own particular climate-related decision contexts. For example, airports function as fixed infrastructure that is primarily affected by probabilities of extreme events that could hamper runway/taxiway operations, interfere with worker availability, or impede travel to and from the airport by passengers. Airlines, in contrast, are more concerned with changes in atmospheric conditions (upper-air turbulence, convective weather events, etc.) that might require consideration in long-term decisions related to flight-planning processes and aircraft equipage. Air-navigation service providers have needs that are primarily concerned with assurance of safe spatial separation of aircraft via sensor data and communications links. In addition to present-day commercial air transport, we discuss what climate data may be needed for new types of air transport that may emerge in the next couple of decades. These include, for example, small aircraft provided on-demand to non-pilot travelers, high-altitude supersonic business and commercial jets, and very large numbers of un-manned aircraft. Finally, we give examples relating to key technical challenges in providing decision-relevant climate data to the air-transport sector. These include: (1) identifying what types of climate data are most relevant the different decisions facing the several segments of this industry; (2) determining decision-appropriate time horizons for forecasts of this data; and (3) coupling the uncertainties inherent in these forecasts to the decision process.