Tom Horne

Weather-mecca in Phoenix

January 12, 2009 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Sure, the weather is nice in Phoenix, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m at the 89th annual convention of the American Meteorological Society, where a primarily academic crowd of some 4,000 weather professionals are assembled. From 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m, hundreds of seminars are conducted. Most of them this year address climate change, but several discussed some aviation aspects of satellite metorology and lightning forecasting. To someone familiar with aviation conventions, the structure here would seem unusual. Mornings and afternoons are for lectures. A daily briefing comes at 12:30 to 1 p.m. The exhibit hall doesn’t open until 5:30 p.m., and it shuts down at 7:30 p.m. I went to the briefing, which was topped off by a review of the day’s “space weather.” Turns out that space weather–which encompasses solar radiation levels and solar storms–is provided on a daily basis to aircrews flying airliners across Polar routes. The atmosphere is thinnest there, so solar radiation poses a big hazard. Big enough to cause reroutings.

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