June 18, 2009

Yar’ Adua strengthens NIMET’s capacity to deliver real time weather report

The federal government has   procured six Doppler weather radars to be installed at airports across the country latest January 2010.It has also installed low level wind shear alert system in, at least, three airports in the country to save airline operations from the debilitating effects of wind shear, especially as the phenomenon was blamed partly for Sosoliso and ADC plane crashes in 2005 and 2006.



Coming at a time the installation of the total radar coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) is billed to be completed by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) at the end of the year, the Doppler radars, which some stakeholders have made persistent clamour for their installation, are expected to further enhance the safety of the nation’s airspace.

Deputy General Manager of Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Mr. Ejike Alozie, who disclosed this in a statement, “President Yar”Adua”s Giant Strides in Aviation Sector: Development of Meteorological Infrastructure for safer Skies in Nigeria,” said the Doppler radars would be installed in Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Yola.

Alozie said in the statement: “When President Umaru Yar”Adua was sworn in on May 29, 2007, he enunciated the 7-point agenda which spelt out the cardinal points of his government”s developmental programme. Aviation is among the sectors mapped out for total transformation. This was the mandate handed down to Mr. Babatunde Omotoba when he was sworn in as Minister of Aviation in December 2008. in addition to ensuring that airport infrastructure, such as terminal buildings, runways etc are provided and maintained.

“Government has also been providing necessary infrastructure for enhancing safety in the skies over Nigeria. Weather is a significant factor affecting safety in the skies.

Statistics indicate that weather contributes up to 30% of civil accidents worldwide, either as a sole factor or among the causative factors.

One of the important strategies adopted by the federal government under President Yar”Adua towards achieving safer  skies over Nigeria is the strengthening of the operational capacity of our national weather service provider –– the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET). This step has been applauded by many stakeholders in the aviation industry. With the support of the federal government, NIMET embarked on some safety-critical projects and has recorded substantial accomplishments since May 2007. Some of the initiatives being implemented by NIMET will surely launch the agency into the league of world class weather service providers in the next few years.

“Some of safety-critical major projects that have been implemented by NIMET since May 2007, or are ongoing are the procurement and installation of six Doppler weather radars (DWR); installation of low-level wind shear alert system (LLWAS) at three airports; procurement and installation of upper air sounding equipment; establishment of five marine weather stations along Nigerian coasts; installation of MeteoSat Second Generation (MSG) ground receiver at the four international airports; installation of thunderstorm detectors at six airports across the country.

These are indeed giant strides by Yar’Adua’s government towards achieving g safer skies in Nigeria . Some pertinent questions the Nigerian public may demand answers include the following: What are these items equipment? How will they improve aviation safety in Nigeria ? How far has government gone in implementing them?

“Meteorological services for aviation have gone through a lot of innovations in the last couple of years because of the changes in technologies. One of such innovations is the introduction of Doppler weather radar (DWR) systems.

The Doppler weather radar is a highly sophisticated weather monitoring equipment used for the detecting, tracking and monitoring convective systems such as severe storms, microburst, line squalls, wind shear, thunderstorm etc. It detects the location, severity, speed and direction of convective systems.

These convective weather systems are usually very severe in nature and pose very serious threat to both life and property, especially in aircraft operations. They are particularly hazardous to aircraft operations because of the down and updraft (wind systems) and lightning associated with such convective systems.

“This equipment detects rain drops in the atmosphere and provides information on their characteristics, including their sizes, growth rate, speed of propagation and intensity of the precipitations resulting from them. On special request by NIMET, the DWR being produced for Nigeria will also have the capacity to monitor the development and propagation of dust plumes which also affects flight operations in the country.

The Doppler weather radar operates by converting reflected radio waves into interpretable pictures detecting the location, intensity, speed and direction of the severe weather events. Typically, a DWR has the capacity to detect and track a weather system as far as 400 to 800 kilometers away. The DWR scans the atmosphere continuously and provides weather information every 2 minutes, thereby giving the weather forecaster the ability to update the public on the changing characteristics of the system.

“The first attempt by Nigeria to acquire Doppler weather radar was in early 1980s when three of the equipment were procured and installed in Lagos and Kano . The installation in Port Harcourt was inconclusive. That project was not sustained and by the early 1990s, the entire system had broken down. In 2003, a new move to procure Doppler weather radar was initiated in the Ministry. Again, this suffered a series of setback until August 2008 when Yar”

Adua”s government got the Nigerian Doppler weather radar back on track and gave it renewed impetus. Government provided money for the initial payment to enable the manufacturer commences production. The production of the six new Doppler weather radars is currently in progress in USA . The project is being handled by Messrs Enterprises Electronics Inc. The Minister of Aviation led an inspection visit to the Enterprise Electronics Incorporation factory in Alabama in April this year. During the visit, the minister pressed for, and secured an accelerated implementation programme to ensure early completion of the project. Shipment from the factory is expected to commence in July this year and installation completed in January 2010.
The six Doppler weather radar are to be located in Abuja , Kano , Lagos , Maiduguri , Port Harcourt and Yola.
“Another giant stride towards safer skies in Nigeria is the approval granted by government for NIMET to procure and install low level wind shear alert system (LLWAS) at some airports. Wind shear is a hazardous meteorological phenomenon caused by sudden change in the wind speed and/or direction over a short distance and/or short period of time. These changes could either be in the horizontal or vertical direction in the atmosphere. Wind variability is a perennial and unavoidable phenomenon in the atmosphere. Wind shear is particularly hazardous when it occurs at lower altitudes. Low level wind shear has, therefore, been recognised as a potential hazard to the aircraft. Wind shear phenomenon originates from a number of meteorological conditions. Chief among these conditions are areas of convective clouds, such as cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds which are usually associated with severe wind variability and turbulence. Also, thunderstorm systems which are very common in our tropical areas are veritable environments for the occurrence of low level wind shear and microburst.
“In most cases, low level wind shear is common around areas with uneven topography. Consequently, airports situated around hills and mountains are likely to experience more wind shear conditions than those situated on plain terrains. Atmospheric scientists use LLWAS for detecting the occurrence of wind shear in the lower atmosphere. When installed around airports, it becomes a powerful tool for weather forecasters to detect the occurrence of wind shear and pass early warning information to pilots through the air traffic controllers. At the moment, the only airport in Nigeria with LLWAS installed is Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport , Abuja . The installation of this system was completed in September 2008 through federal government funding. This is the first LLWAS ever to be installed in Nigeria . Fortunately, the government, in its continuous stride towards safer skies in Nigeria , approved and appropriated funds for NIMET to produce and install low level wind shear alert systems at three additional airports. The procurement process has reached advanced stages. Installation is scheduled to be completed by end of October 2009. Another critical project embarked upon for more accurate weather forecasts in the ongoing aviation sector transformation is the procurement and installation of upper air sounding equipment. With financial support from the federal government, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency has completed the procure and installation of upper air sounding equipment at Lagos and Maiduguri within this year. The third upper air sounding system for Enugu airport is expected to be delivered and installed by end of July 2009.
“Upper air sounding is a technique used for measuring meteorological parameters (wind speed and direction, temperature, dew point, humidity, pressure) at different flight levels. Weather forecasters use these parameters to estimate the degree of instability at different standard flight levels. These forecasts guide pilots in choosing the safest flight paths. Thunderstorms are characteristic features in all parts of Nigeria , especially during the rainy season. They also constitute hazards for aircraft. In order to improve the capacity of NIMET to monitor this phenomenon, government provided funds to procure and install thunderstorm detectors at various airports in Nigeria . Within this year, NIMET has procured and installed thunderstorm detectors at Enugu , Ibadan , Kaduna , Kano , Owerri and Yola airports. Each of these systems can detect intensity and location of thunderstorm within a radius of 50 kilometers from the airport. Before now, only Abuja and Lagos airports had thunderstorm detectors.
“Other initiatives that are being implemented by NIMET towards achieving safer skies over Nigeria include the establishment of a National Weather Forecasting and Research Centre in Abuja; installation of new conventional meteorological instruments in the NIMET”s weather observatories nationwide to replace the obsolete ones, establishment of marine meteorological stations along the country”s coastal belt; human capacity development, particularly for the professional cadre of NIMET. Today, NIMET”s capacity to render safety-critical meteorological services has been enhanced. As of today, NIMET issues an average of 350 flight folders to pilots every week from Ikeja airport alone. The agency is still aiming at improvements in our performance. The success story being reported in the area of improved weather service to aviation and other sectors of the national economy can only be attributed to the commitment of President Umaru Yar’ Adua to the goals and targets he clearly defined in the 7-point agenda.”