Predicting weather has always been an essential part in the development of human societies. Meteorological forecasts are needed to ensure that the industries behind the turning of the wheels of civilizations function correctly. For example, weather is a key component in agriculture, as different crops require different meteorological conditions for optimal growth. With accurate and timely predictions, governments could foresee periods of drought and plan in advance the measures needed to counter these challenges for their agricultural sectors.
Exact meteorological forecasts are also indispensable for travel and, by extension, commerce. In the aviation industry, weather is, therefore, constantly analyzed to ensure safe passage of aircrafts, their passengers and goods.
There are many ways airports keep tabs on the changes in weather. Here are some of the common ones that you are likely to find in many air hubs, including the Hamad International Airport in Doha.
Weather measuring tools: from wind to precipitation
There are many factors that are included in the term “weather”, for example, wind and precipitation.
Being airborne, planes are very susceptible to wind. Depending on the aircraft’s speed, a strong impact from an air current could potentially lead to accidents. Measuring this factor is absolutely crucial throughout the flight, but especially during takeoff and landing, as these two constitute the most dangerous parts of the craft’s journey. It comes as no surprise that so much of the airport and runway equipment is aimed at monitoring these two instances. Pilots should also be guided with regards to the wind presence to ensure further safety.
Various types of wind profilers are used, such as the famous RADAR technology, in conjunction with SODAR (sonic detection and ranging). These could detect wind speed and direction from various altitudes, climbing up to 17 m above sea level, in other words reaching the higher ends of the troposphere in which planes fly. RADARS scatter radio beams, which then send signals back to the sensors after having been in contact with the object in question. These types of wind profilers also help lay out the optimal course for the pilots.
Since special attention has to be given to takeoff and landing, runway is also adapted for weather detection. The Runway Visual Range (RVR) is the distance that one can see horizontally down the runway in given weather conditions. The runway must be clearly visible at all times, once again, to ensure safety.
For optimal visibility, various solutions are put in place, including the High-intensity Runway Lights and beacon lighting features.
The RVR could also be improved by using the weather RADAR, which constitutes a key feature of many other airport systems.
Precipitation and rain gauges
It is equally as important to measure precipitation, as intense rainfall could lead to reduced visibility for pilots. Tools such as automatic rain gauges have been long ago put to use in aerodynamics. The instrument, which consists of a container that collects rainwater, measures the amount of precipitation in millimeters during a given time per unit area. However, these may show a lack of accuracy in extreme weather conditions, as strong gusts of wind could blow the water out of the gauge, while sub-zero temperatures could contribute to ice formation in the instrument. To counter the latter problem, some rain gauges are equipped with heating systems that thaw the frozen rainwater.
Altering the weather
Nowadays, not only is it possible to predict the weather, but even to change it in certain cases! Airports now use specific technologies that could change the outside conditions around the runways, facilitating liftoff and touchdown. For this, cloudseeding has been developed. This is a complex artificial process that alters precipitation via condensation nuclei that are projected into the air.
Bayanat Engineering, a Qatar-based company that specializes in providing aeronautic solutions, has equipped the Hamad International Airport with these and many other technologies. To learn more about weather monitoring, as well as about their products, visit www.bayanatengineering.qa