Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A LAMP to Illuminate the Weather

At irregular intervals, the National Weather Service (NWS) publishes The Front, a newsletter intended to "enhance aviation safety by increasing the pilot's knowledge of weather systems and processes, and NWS products and services." The newsletter invariably contains Good Stuff.

I've just gotten around to reading the latest issue (dated March 2010) and was not disappointed. One article describes the new, uniform look of the NWS Eastern Region's Center Weather Service Units' (CWSU) web sites. The revamped sites offer a number of outstanding flight planning products.

Since I need to access information from airspace covered by Boston Center (ZBW), New York Center (ZNY) and Washington Center (ZDC) for my weekly travels, I've bookmarked an NWS Southern Region site that offers a clickable map that links conveniently to any CWSU site.

For the Eastern Region (ZBW, ZNY, ZDC & ZOB), when you click on the Center of your choice you are brought to a top level page that offers an overview map showing current conditions in the Center's airspace. (Some CWSU sites outside the Eastern Region appear to have older formats, but the same information is usually available. Presumably in coming months they'll be upgraded as well.)

The map offers click-to-zoom for a more focused look at a local area of interest. If you mouse over any terminal you get a pop-up block showing present conditions, and if you click on a terminal you get a really complete display of recent, current and forecast weather for that location. One portion of the display that will prove really helpful is the LAMP forecast. LAMP stands for Localized Aviation MOS Product (and MOS stands for Model Output Statistics). This is a 24 hour forecast, updated hourly, that gives guidance on what weather to expect for a planned flight.

The March 2010 issue of The Front, mentioned above, has a great article called "Using LAMP Guidance in Flight Planning" that makes it all simple.

In case the CWSU site you're interested in doesn't yet offer the LAMP forecast, you can get to it through the LAMP program home page.

And, while you're at the CWSU site, be certain to explore the links listed in the left sidebar. These connect to a number of very valuable weather products, some of which may be new to you.

I expect to be a regular visitor to the CWSU sites and to make use of the LAMP forecasts as I plan my weekly trips between Connecticut and the DC area.

One last thing. You need to send an e-mail to Melody Magnus asking her to put you on the e-mail notification list for future issues of The Front. That way, you'll get to the Good Stuff right away.

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