The kick off meeting held on July, 2nd in the presence of representatives of the European Commission, marks the official start of the project, dedicated to the improvement of meteorological models to support the air traffic management

The kick off meeting of the SINOPTICA project, funded under the EU Horizon 2020 and SESAR Joint Undertaking Programmes was held on July 2nd. During the meeting, held online and in the (virtual) presence of representatives of the European Commission, the consortium partners were able to explain in detail the actions planned for the project and their role within it.

The kick off meeting started with a general presentation of the partners (CIMA Research Foundation, project coordinator; Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.Austro ControlUniversity of PaduaGeomatics Research & Development srl and Universitat de Barcelona-GAMA Team) and of the project itself. As explained by Antonio Parodi, program director of CIMA Research Foundation, the SINOPTICA project – to be implemented from July 2020 to the end of December 2022 – aims to improve the weather forecast models used for the prediction of extreme events to support Air Traffic Management (ATM) processes. SINOPTICA will rely on assimilation into the Weather and Research Forecasting (WRF) model of atmospheric data from different sources: remote sensing, both satellite and ground-based, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), weather radar and in situ meteorological stations. Data will be collected in a regularly updated database and assimilated into meteorological models – in particular, the WRF model – so as to allow their integration into air traffic management support systems. The presence of ATM stakeholders within the partnership and the project advisory board will ensure the possibility to assess the usefulness of these new tools at an operational level.

Furthermore, SINOPTICA intends to study the possibility of implementing the sensor networks used to monitor atmospheric variables located in some critical points for air traffic, such as airports.

During the second part of the morning, Riccardo Biondi, researcher of the Department of Geosciences of the University of Padua, partner responsible for the Communication and Dissemination activities (work package WP3), held his presentation. The communication strategy, explained Dr. Biondi, will create the brand identity of the project and will involve key stakeholders such as ATM operators. Attention will also be given to researchers working in related fields of the project’s thematic and efforts will be made to raise awareness among the general public. This aspect will be put into practice through an active participation in public events such as, for example, the “Researchers’ Night” in the four countries represented in the project.

Dr. Biondi’s presentation was followed by a talk by the European Commission experts on the EC Horizon 2020 and SESAR Joint Undertaking Programmes with special focus on the project management activities.

The afternoon session focused mainly on the description of the individual SINOPTICA work packages, presented by the partners responsible for their implementation. Markus Kerschbaum, senior expert of Air Traffic Management at Austro Control (ACG, responsible for WP4, User Requirement Analysis & KPIs Definition), explained the procedure to identify a set of use cases in connection to severe weather handling in ATM environment, especially at the air traffic controller working position. The use cases will focus on the visualization of dynamic severe weather areas and their forecasted behavior on the controller’s radar screen, calculating three dimensional trajectories and target times at metering fixes and runway thresholds. Then Dr. Parodi illustrated the activities related to the demonstration and validation of forecasting systems (WP5, led by CIMA Research Foundation) which will include the identification of possible atmospheric scenarios in airport areas and data assimilation from different sources, including citizen scientist networks, into the WRF model. The results will be experimentally tested and validated for integration into air traffic management systems.

Marco-Michael Temme, senior expert of Air Traffic Control systems for severe weather avoiding of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR), deepened this aspect (WP6, ATM Integration). Dr. Temme explained that such efforts to integrate data from multiple sources will lead to a better planning of the flights arrival systems so that the arrival/landing planning can take place at an early stage and thus there will be more time available to avoid areas of bad weather. This area of action also involves developing an interface between the WRF model and the arrival manager systems, a process that, Dr. Temme pointed out, will require a classification of the severity of the weather event.

In the last speeches before the final discussion, Dr. Parodi illustrated the ways in which the data assimilation system is expected to be developed within the forecasting model (WP7, Data Assimilation System Development). Then Eugenio Realini, GNSS Geoscience Applications manager of Geomatics Research & Development srl, explained the WP8, Data Provision System Development. This is a delicate aspect of the project, which requires the development of a data retrieval and – when necessary – a raw data processing system. This WP will strongly benefit of Universitat de Barcelona-GAMA Team, led by Maria Carmen Llasat in processing radar data, as well as from the University of Padua Team in processing GNSS Radio Occultation data. WP7 also includes the development of a system to provide information to the data assimilation system and, last but not least, to evaluate the possibility and usefulness of deploying low-cost GNSS stations near airports to monitor atmospheric water vapor.

“In this busy day we have been able to comprehensively describe the SINOPTICA project,” commented Dr. Parodi. “The results we aim to achieve with this project, which will require close collaboration between all partners, will not only be a valuable support for air traffic management and safety, but will also be an important step forward for increasing effective weather forecasting systems in nowcasting mode”.