Field trial of an automated ground-based infrared cloud classification system

Automated classification of cloud types using a ground-based infrared imager can provide invaluable high resolution and localised information for Air Traffic Controllers. Observations can be made consistently, continuously in real time and accurately during both day and night operation. Details of a field trial of an automated, ground-based infrared cloud classification system are presented. The system was designed at Campbell Scientific ltd in collaboration with Loughborough University, UK. The main objective of the trial was to assess the performance of an automated infrared camera system with a lightning detector in classifying several types of clouds, specifically Cumulonimbus and Towering Cumulus, during continuous day and night operation. Results from the classification system were compared with those obtained from Meteorological Aerodrome Reports (METAR) and with data generated by the UK Meteorological Office from their radar and sferics automated cloud reports system. In comparisons with METAR data, a Probability of Detection of up to 82% was achieved, together with a minimum Probability of False Detection of 18%.