The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and WMO signed a new agreement on 26 October to increase and improve automated reporting of meteorological data by commercial aircraft in support of weather and forecasting. This new collaboration aims to improve the coverage of the existing WMO Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) system and to ensure reporting of meteorological data over currently data-sparse areas. The initiative, called the WMO and IATA Collaborative AMDAR Programme (WICAP), is expected to bring many additional and new partner airlines into the programme, which is already supported by around 40 national airlines and several thousand passenger and cargo aircraft.
Meteorological information gathered by in-flight aircraft – air pressure and temperature, wind speed and direction and turbulence – are used by meteorological agencies and others in numerical weather prediction models to derive forecast and weather service products for aviation, the wider transport industry and other private business sectors, as well as the public. The positive impact and improvement to weather forecasts that these data provide is well-established and provides a significant benefit to airline and aviation operations and safety.
Under the collaboration, WMO, its Members and partner agencies will be responsible for establishing a regionally-based operational framework for the reception and processing of the data. IATA will build the business case for, and promote airline participation in, the programme while helping to coordinate technical solutions for data relay.
An additional unfortunate aspect of the COVID-19 crisis has been the severe loss of aircraft-derived meteorological data that has been an inevitable result of the steep decline in airline operations and passenger flights since March 2020. While meteorological services and other data providers have endeavoured to offset the loss of up to 80 to 90% of normal aircraft data levels with other sources where possible, there has been a measurable negative impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts as a result of AMDAR data reductions. The IATA and WMO collaborative programme will support the re-establishment of aircraft meteorological data availability in the coming years as the crisis is overcome and the aviation industry recovers.
Airlines will take advantage of all available cost and operational efficiencies to rebuild better after the crisis. Efficiency can be derived from the enhanced use and application of in-flight operations and safety processes and procedures, of improved weather forecasts and information that results from availability of AMDAR data. For more information on the Working Arrangement, read the Press Release here.