Dedicated to providing the clearest possible window on the weather across the State of Kuwait and beyond is the KIA Meteorology Department. Equipped with some of the most hi-tech weather observation systems in the Gulf region, professional Meteorologists, who work round the clock generating forecasts for a diverse spectrum of end-users, are among the 160 Met Department staff. Up-to-date weather data and forecasts are available to the general public 24 hours a day via the airport’s website, www.met.gov.kw While aircrew are the main users of the Met Department’s services, other customers include government ministries, the media, the fishing, marine, farming and shipping industries, and commercial organisations such as construction firms and insurance companies.
The world of the Met Department changes as quickly as the weather patterns, and keeping on top of the latest technology is an ongoing challenge. Weather condition reporting for flights arriving at KIA is now fully automated and provided through the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), a recorded voice message that provides weather and airport services information directly to pilots in the cockpit. Previously aircrew had to contact approach control for the latest updates.
Another major project currently underway as part of the Kuwait Airspace System Plan (KASP) is the upgrade of the country’s system of land- and marine-based Automatic Weather Observation Stations (AWOS).The scheme will see the network of stations – marine, synoptic, climatological and agro met – expanded to 28, strategically located across the State. Ever mindful of its environmental responsibilities, a new addition to AWOS will be an observation station to monitor air quality. Research will be further enhanced by a Mobile Observation Station and six weather infor- mation panels, located in Kuwait’s six governorates.
Stratosphere monitoring is also reaching for the skies, with trials underway on new methods of collecting upper air data, currently carried out by flying weather balloons using radio-sonde. One system under test utilises commercial aircraft to collect the data – outside air temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction. This is then downloaded by data link to the Met Department, providing a continuous flow of information from any suitably equipped aircraft within the local Flight Information Region (FIR). Another technology-driven KASP project, which promises to have a major impact on all future meteorology activity, is the Integrated Meteorological Data Processing system – IMDP for short. In essence a ‘one-stop shop’ for handling all Met data, IMDP offers the ability to draw together all the available weather information – local feeds from the AWOS, regional and global radar and satellite forecasts, upper air data and so on – overlaying the multiple layers of disparate data into a single entity.
This numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a stateof- the-art forecasting technique. It will offer better and more accurate forecasting, with multi-layered reporting systems that can be tailored to deliver exactly the information required by end-users. A key feature of IMDP is the ability to transfer weather data directly to customers who sign up to the service using the Internet or SMS (text messaging). Also on the horizon for suitably-equipped subscribers will be MMS (multimedia messaging), enabling weather data imagery to be downloaded direct to a PDA, mobile phone or laptop.
These new projects will build on the existing Met systems installed at KIA as part of KASP, which include a Doppler Weather Radar capable of detecting cloud cover up to 500km range and precipitation up to 100km and a Low Level Wind Shear Alert System that warns of dangerous downdrafts. KIA is also investigating the various methods of dust storm detection.
Other new systems on the horizon include wind profiling radar, detecting wind direction and speed up to 20,000ft and wave height detection via satellite, a system already in use in other Gulf States.
Also eagerly awaited is the new Control Centre project, now expected to go ahead as part of the DGCA’s latest Master Plan update within the next five years. A move into the new facility will provide an excellent new working environment for the Department bringing them closer to their Air Navigation and Navigational Equipment colleagues.