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Uneven heating of the surface of the Earth makes air move around it. This phenomenon is referred to as Mass Air Circulation. It leads to the formation of frontal zones which, in turn, cause certain changes within the environment, affecting aviation and weather in general and having a negative impact on the airport, airspace and the air traffic controllers. This write up focuses on the process of frontal zones formation and the way these affect the aviation industry.
According to Private Plot Ground School (2006), air masses are large bodies of air whose characteristics are derived from the source region or the surrounding area. The air mass usually takes time in the source region long enough to allow it acquire the temperature of that region. On the other hand, front is the zone between two air masses. It is formed when an air mass moves from its source and meets another air mass of different properties. This movement of air mass leads to the formation of different frontal zones, influencing the aviation industry.
The four frontal patterns can be formed as a result of difference in temperature of air masses. Whenever a front approaches, aviation weather is usually affected. The patterns include cold, warm stationary, and occluded fronts (Williams, 2007). Front zone forms at the leading edge of an advancing cold air mass, which is a zone of transition between cold and warm air. It is formed as a result of cold air, being overtaken and replaced by warm air. As the warm air rises above the advancing cold air, expansive cooling of the first leads to the formation of cloud cover and results in the subsequent precipitation at the position of the surface front.
When the flight begins from the direction where the warm air flows and moves towards the front, it should remember about Visual Flight Rules that regulate the flights with visibility at 3 miles in scattered layer of clouds and smoke at 3,500 feet. As the flight progress toward the oncoming cold front, the clouds seem to move vertically with broken layer at 2500 and 6 miles of visibility. Close to the front aviation, weather is unfavorably characterized by 3 miles visibility as clouds are overcast at 1,000 feet. At this point, it is advisable that the flight stops until the front passes. However, past this point the aviation weather improves (Williams, 2007).
Warm front is formed at the zone between a retreating cold air and an advancing warm air. The front usually moves slowly, 10 to 25 miles per hour, as a result of the friction, experienced on the front’s trailing edge. As a warm air rises above the retreating cold air, the temperature decreases, leading to condensation. Usually, cirriform or stratiform clouds and fogs form in advance of the warm front. The front usually causes light to moderate precipitation in the form of rain, snow or sleet accompanied by poor visibility. As the warm front passes, stratiform clouds usually become visible. It may also cause drizzles to fall. Under these conditions, visibility is always poor though it improves as wind varies (Private Plot Ground School, 2006).
The effect of warm front on aviation is usually adverse. Take for instance where aviation begins from the region that acted as a source of the cold air towards the frontal zone. At the time of departure, the aviation weather is favorable with good Visual Flight Rules. As the flight progresses to the oncoming warm front, the clouds deepen and appearance becomes stratiform at 6,000 feet and barometric pressure falls as visibility reduces to 6 miles. At around 2,000, clouds are broken hence the aviation weather deteriorates with 3 miles visibility. At the point where temperature is at the dew point, fog is likely to form with low clouds and a visibility of 1 mile. Thus, the visibility becomes too low to continue Visual Flight Rules. The flight has to stop for a day or two until the warm front passes (Williams, 2007).
Occluded front is formed when warm front merge with cold front, as a result of warm front being overtaken by a cold front. The front can be referred to as a cold front or warm front occlusion. In whichever case, the colder air mass advances over the other, which is less cold. The type of cloud and produced precipitation when either type of occluded front approaches usually resemble that of warm front. However, as the fronts pass, the clouds and precipitation are similar to those of cold front. This explains why it is impossible to distinguish between the approach of occluded front and that of warm front. As the flight moves towards the front, cirriform and stratiform clouds that form prior to the front causes poor visibility. For any further movement of the flight, it will have to encounter nimbostratus and cumulonimbus with poor visibility barometric pressure leveling off. However, past this point, nimbostratus and altostratus clouds dominate, visibility improve as precipitation clears off (Private Plot Ground School, 2006).
Finally, stationary front occurs when two air masses whose properties are relatively similar advance towards each other and its front remain stationary. Stationary front resembles warm front and usually manifests whether conditions are similar to those of warm front. Weather conditions, formed as a result of stationary front, are usually bad and may last for a long period of time. In stationary front, the aviation weather is a mixture of cold and warm front. Since the front remains stationary for long, its effect on aviation weather lasts for days (Private Plot Ground School, 2006).
Airports are usually affected by frontal zones. For instance, the pooling of water and accumulation of ice on the runways makes it hazardous for planes either to land or to take off. This disrupts flight schedules, affecting management of aviation services. Stopovers at warm frontal zones can take quite a lot of time, up to two days, causing a serious hitch on the aviation industry system. Pilots often find it impossible to fly aircrafts above thunderstorms since some go so high (Essay Web, 2008). On the other hand, flying below the thunderstorms can expose the plane to rain, violent turbulence, and damaging lightning, thus endangering the flight. Equally, rain water may enter the fuel tank and influence the operation of the aircraft.
In conclusion, flights heavily depend on aviation weather. Formation of frontal zones definitely affects flight and aviation management. Therefore, having a solid understanding of weather theory enables one to understand the dynamics of the aviation industry.
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