Weather field reconstruction using aircraft surveillance data and a novel meteo-particle model

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 3;13(10):e0205029. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205029. eCollection 2018.


Wind and temperature data are important parameters in aircraft performance studies. The lack of accurate measurements of these parameters forces researchers to rely on numerical weather prediction models, which are often filtered for a larger area with decreased local accuracy. Aircraft, however, also transmit information related to weather conditions, in response to interrogation by air traffic controller surveillance radars. Although not intended for this purpose, aircraft surveillance data contains information that can be used for weather models. This paper presents a method that can be used to reconstruct a weather field from surveillance data that can be received with a simple 1090 MHz receiver. Throughout the paper, we answer two main research questions: how to accurately infer wind and temperature from aircraft surveillance data, and how to reconstruct a real-time weather grid efficiently. We consider aircraft as moving sensors that measure wind and temperature conditions indirectly at different locations and flight levels. To address the first question, aircraft barometric altitude, ground velocity, and airspeed are decoded from down-linked surveillance data. Then, temperature and wind observations are computed based on aeronautical speed conversion equations. To address the second question, we propose a novel Meteo-Particle (MP) model for constructing the wind and temperature fields. Short-term local prediction is also possible by employing a predictor layer. Using an unseen observation test dataset, we are able to validate that the mean absolute errors of inferred wind and temperature using MP model are 67% and 26% less than using the interpolated model based on GFS reanalysis data.

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Temperature
  • Uncertainty
  • Weather*
  • Wind

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.6970403

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.