Southwest Airlines rigged up a fleet of Boeing 737s with climate sensors, creating a weather forecasting network above the clouds. Together with the Aeronautical Radio Incorporated (ARINC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and SpectraSensors, Southwest Airlines could possibly revolutionize the way we acquire weather patterns.
The Water Vapor Sensing Systems (WVSS-II), as they call it, keep track of humidity when the planes take off and land, and can predict growing thunderstorms. Meteorologist and aviation forecasters have been trained to use WVSS-II systems to determine everything from fog formation to cloud ceilings. While the system is nothing new, Jeanine Hendricks, ARINC’s manager for the program, says “WVSS-II observations add a critical new piece of weather data to the forecasting puzzle.”
Agencies like the NOAA can use the data to formulate more accurate reports, and, maybe, save travelers a few hours of delay in the airport.