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This Holiday Season

National Weather Service Strengthens Aviation Decision-Support Forecasts


NOAA Meteorologist Joe Polina.

Meteorologist Joe Polina from the National Weather Service’s New York Weather Forecast Office prepares one of nine airport terminal forecasts issued each day in conjunction with detailed air route forecasts provided by the NWS Center Weather Service Unit located in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. There are 21 Center Weather Service units in the United States, and each works closely with the FAA to develop aviation data products to meet an area’s special needs.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA)

The holiday season marks one of the busiest travel times for air flight in America. As thoughts of family gatherings and holiday parties delight the mind and senses, planning how to get to your holiday destinations safely with time to spare may be a little daunting.

It may ease your mind to know that the National Weather Service and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are working together on new programs aimed at reducing costly weather-related delays.

Inclement weather — from fog and high winds to thunderstorms and ice — can negatively affect air travel in any season. Weather is in fact the major cause of most flight delays, reroutes and cancellations.

In partnership with the FAA, NOAA’s National Weather Service is providing improved aviation forecasts at three of the nation’s largest airport hubs as part of a new pilot program to help reduce weather-related flight delays.

Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller.

A Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller reviews aviation forecasts to help manage air traffic. The FAA relies on National Weather Service data to help make the best decisions to ensure air safety and reduce the impact of delays.

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“Early planning for bad weather over the national airspace system — particularly within the New York, Atlanta and Chicago routes referred to as the ‘golden triangle’ — makes all the difference for air traffic managers, allowing them to reroute or cancel flights well in advance,” said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., director of the National Weather Service. “About 70 percent of all flight delays are due to weather, so the National Weather Service is redoubling weather support in this area with our improved aviation forecasts to help minimize delays at airports, improve flight safety and potentially save the flying public valuable dollars this holiday season.”

To aid the FAA at these three busy airport hubs, the National Weather Service has rolled out a suite of new tools including:

“We are totally committed to providing the best suite of aviation forecast products to address the issues of air safety and flight delays,” said Christopher Strager, director for the National Weather Service’s Eastern Region. “Improving our services to provide decision-makers the best information available is a top priority as we develop innovative approaches to incorporate the advances made in the science of weather forecasting.”

Cleaning up after snowstorm at the Philadelphia airport.

Cleaning up after snowstorm at the Philadelphia airport.

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Air Travel 101: Plan Early and Plan Well

Although the use of new weather decision-support tools is great news for air travelers, Mother Nature has a way of always surprising us. Some simple planning can alleviate the frustration of last minute itinerary changes, flight delays or cancellations. Here are two tips:


To learn more about NOAA’s aviation weather forecasting and what it means for your next trip by air, please visit:

Posted Dec. 15, 2010 NOAA logo.