Turbulence Avoidance System Guards Against Unstable Air

 - October 1, 2012, 3:42 PM
JAWS display at Juneau Alaska, with magenta paths indicating areas of severe turbulence.

A new turbulence-detection and -avoidance system now operating at Juneau International Airport (JNU) in Alaska is expected to be adapted for additional U.S. airports beginning with those most often affected by dangerously unstable air. Juneau often closes during bouts of significant turbulence to avoid risk to people, cargo and aircraft.

The Juneau Airport Wind System (JAWS) system, developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., interprets rapidly changing atmospheric conditions using a network of wind-measuring instruments and computational formulas to determine how local wind affects turbulence development. This allows more traffic to operate safely during turbulent sessions because it can highlight areas and approach paths for aircraft to avoid the most severe bumps.

JAWS uses five anemometers to measure wind speed and three wind profilers to gauge both speed and direction at different elevations. These transmit data multiple times every minute to deliver near-real-time information about wind speed and direction, and a visual readout showing regions of moderate and severe turbulence in the airport’s approach and departure corridors. TheNational Weather Service website offers users an integrated app to effectively use JAWS data.