The NOAA/National Weather Service (NWS) Aviation Weather Center (AWC) is working on a significant upgrade to its website to improve its consistency and performance, the organization has revealed.
The organization’s current website is a comprehensive collection of all current and forecast weather conditions that affect aviation and is widely used in the helicopter industry.
There are two products widely used by helicopter operators: the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation tool (GFA) and the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool. According to the AWC, the GFA was designed to provide “the necessary aviation weather information to give users a complete picture of the weather that may impact flight in the United States and surrounding ocean areas.”
The HEMS tool provides weather guidance for short distance, low altitude helicopter operations.
AWC products are constantly being updated and improved, but the organization said its primary website was becoming outdated. “The earliest version [of today’s website] aviationweather.gov was released in August 2002,” said Jennifer Stroozas, warning coordination meteorologist, NWS AWC. Now, the AWC has been working on a “significant upgrade to the website to improve the site’s consistency, supportability, mobile friendliness, performance, ease of use, and ease of new development.”
The original website was designed to run on PCs and work stations. The new website will be more compatible with mobile devices, such as cell phones and tablets, with pages that will adjust automatically for different screen sizes.
One change directly impacting those in the helicopter industry involves the HEMS tool.
“Helicopter operators will see a new home for the HEMS tool,” said Stroozas. “It can now be found integrated into the GFA page as the GFA-low altitude tool. You can access it from the GFA page by clicking on the helicopter icon in the upper right hand corner.”
This includes current weather conditions (ceiling and visibility, clouds, precipitation, thunderstorms, temperature, winds, turbulence and icing), radar and satellite observations, METARs, PIREPs, SIGMETs, and NWS Warnings.
Forecasts from one to five hours out include all of the above weather conditions from the surface to 5,000 feet by 500 foot increments. It also includes new elements such as GLM lightning data. The update also sees the tool lose its HEMS name, which some had said was confusing.
According to Stroozas, the website transition is slated for this spring.
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the AWC was established in 1995 to support the aviation industry by providing the latest and most accurate current and forecast weather conditions that may impact aviation operations. It has around 40 operational meteorologists who provide their expertise 24/7.