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'JAWS' gives pilots a better view of local winds


A new system of wind and weather sensors on the mountain ridges surrounding Juneau, Alaska, is generating real-time alerts of turbulence in the airport's arrival and departure corridors. The Juneau Airport Wind System, or JAWS, complements existing on-airport wind shear equipment by covering a much larger volume of airspace within about 10 miles of the airport. Over several years, the project collected data on wind patterns at several mountaintop sites, noting which observed conditions correlated with actual pilot reports of moderate and severe turbulence. JAWS also uses three profilers, which measure wind speeds in columns of air from the surface to 5,800 feet MSL. All of that historical and live data is factored into the real-time system, which can provide alerts to pilots during preflight or in the cockpit about where turbulence is expected. That lets pilots know what's coming and adjust their approaches. Now that the system is working at Juneau, the National Center for Atmospheric Research is planning to adapt it for turbulence-prone airports in Southern California and the intermountain West.