The Guy at Southwest Airlines Who Decides if the Weather is Going to Ground Your Flight

Weather forecasting for airlines has come a long way.

Cool story on Nautilus — a fantastic new online science magazine; if you haven’t checked it out, do so — about Rick Curtis, the chief meteorologist for Southwest Airlines. What does Curtis do? Oh, nothing much. Just watches five monitors streaming weather data at him so he can decide whether he should ground any of the airlines’ 700 planes in the sky every day. The article has many cool factoids facts, like this:

The most expensive weather related situation is when ground conditions are too treacherous for a plane to land. “No plane can land during a thunderstorm,” Curtis says, “and thunderstorms are the most common weather event.” Airlines now have approximately 18 minutes of warning time before the skies open and unleash a torrent. This is not nearly as much time as Curtis would like.

The story also details how private companies are trying to give people like Curtis more advanced, timely weather data, including a new program by IMB called Deep Thunder. (Dramatic!) Entire piece is worth a read.

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