Understanding and Detecting Wind Shear

Microburst seen from an airplane, Las Vegas NV, July 2015. photo by Paul Hurst

Microburt seen from aircraft, Las Vegas NV, July 7, 2015. Photo courtesy of Paul Hurst. Used with permission.

Challenge: 

Between 1970 and 1994, a number of flights during takeoff and landing were forced to the ground by invisible, violent “downbursts.” Pilots were literally blind sighted by these deadly wind shear events. During that time, wind shear resulted in 570 fatalities in the U.S.

Solution: 

In the 1980s, scientists and engineers from NCAR and academia, with support from the federal government, developed and conducted a research project dedicated to understanding this deadly phenomena. Based on wind shear research studies such as the Joint Airport Weather Studies (JAWS), NCAR scientists and engineers developed two wind shear detection systems that have been deployed throughout the USA and world, coined The Low-Level Windshear Alert System (LLWAS) and in collaboration with MIT-LL, the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR).

Benefits: 

Savings in lives and property is estimated at $1B