Storm watch at the Super Bowl
Raytheon tech predicts everything but the score
The Super Bowl often takes place under a dome, but there are still plenty of ways weather can foul things up – both for the big game itself and the week’s worth of events leading up to it.
To help planners work around the weather, National Weather Service meteorologists on site use a Raytheon-developed forecasting system to tell exactly where, when and how Mother Nature is most likely to strike.
“It really does allow the event organizers to have a little glimpse into the future,” said Brad Scalio, a meteorologist and engineer in Raytheon’s Information, Intelligence and Services business.
Their crystal ball: the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, or AWIPS. The tool gives meteorologists a highly detailed and real-time display of weather data culled from radar and satellite sensors, including Raytheon’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. It has been used to manage logistics of presidential speeches, the Boy Scouts of America’s national Jamboree, and even containment operations for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010.
Raytheon also manages the satellite technology that broadcast the game to U.S. Navy ships, submarines and carriers.
In past Super Bowls, AWIPS has provided early warnings of rain in Florida and temperature advisories during the 2014 game in New Jersey – the first-ever Super Bowl played in a cold-weather outdoor stadium.
This year’s Super Bowl took place in Glendale, Arizona, meaning staff was on the lookout for dust storms that can rip down trees and damage buildings, high winds that can topple tailgaters’ tents and flash floods that can tie up traffic to and from the stadium.
Even in mild weather, the meteorologists still help make decisions on all sorts of logistics: when to receive deliveries, when to open or close a retractable roof – even how much ice to order.
“At a golf outing, for example, they can let people know when the rain might start, so they’ll know when they have to worry about changing course,” Scalio said. “If you have a delivery coming in and there’s a window when the rain is going to stop, they can tell the people, ‘Now you have your five-minute window. Start unloading the truck.’”
AWIPS helps event planners brace for severe weather, and its precision helps prevent overreaction. Take this year's Super Bowl for example. The stadium is located in Maricopa County, which encompasses 9,200 square miles – so big that a storm warning in one corner of the county might have little or no bearing on the venue.
The weather technology shows the breadth, range and everyday usefulness of Raytheon engineering, said William J. Sullivan, who manages systems for observation of Earth and space for Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business.
“The one thing that will always affect every person in the world is weather,” Sullivan said. “We have tech that allows people to plan their lives around what weather will do. That’s powerful stuff.”