SAFE LANDINGS Weather-wise


Aviation meteorologists like 2008 atmospheric science alumnus Warren Weston connect the dots between severe weather and flight schedules by creating detailed forecasts to help planes and their travelers arrive at destinations safely.

From thunderstorms and limited visibility to scorching temperatures and turbulence, the weather dictates when and where planes can fly. Severe weather is the leading cause of air travel disruptions in the United States.

Aviation meteorologists plan for and around difficult conditions, crafting weather forecasts used to determine the nuances of flights, from altitude to optimal routes. They play an essential role in ensuring travelers get to their destinations safely and efficiently.

Several major domestic carriers, including Delta Air Lines, have in-house meteorologists who monitor global weather 24 hours a day. Delta has 28 meteorologists on staff — the largest team of any airline, it declares — who sit in the carrier’s Operations and Customer Center, alongside flight dispatchers, customer service agents and hundreds of other staffers, at its headquarters in Atlanta.

In this cavernous and screen-filled room, Warren Weston, Delta’s lead meteorologist, recently spoke about the importance of data, the difference between surface weather and upper-air hazards, and how even one degree of temperature can change a flight plan. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo credit: Delta Air Lines

Read the full Q&A with Warren Weston conducted by journalist Christine Chung in the New York Times.