SIGMET (Significant Meteorological Information) – Information issued by a meteorological watch office concerning the occurrence or expected occurrence of specified en-route weather phenomena which may affect the safety of aircraft operations.

Providing hazardous weather information for en-route flights in the form of SIGMET is the responsibility of a Meteorological Watch Office that serves a Flight Information Region (FIR). Hazardous weather (e.g. severe turbulence) often crosses FIR boundaries. Harmonized information in this regard is desired by the airline operators in order to assist in tactical decision making and flight planning. To assist in providing harmonized information on hazardous weather, the European Air Navigation Planning Group (EANPG) requested ICAO and the Russian Federation to coordinate and conduct a Workshop on SIGMET coordi nation for the PT/EAST (Project Team on Implementing MET Services in the Eastern Part of the EUR Region including Central Asia) States that include: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The Workshop on SIGMET Coordination for PT/EAST States was held in Minsk, Belarus on 14 June 2017. This event was hosted by the Center of Hydrometeorology and Control of Radioactive Contamination and Environmental Monitoring of Belarus (Hydromet) and Aviation Department Director, Ministry of Transportation and Communication of Belarus. Sixtysix participants from 10 States (Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Germany, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation and Ukraine) and ICAO participated in the workshop. This began with a review of ICAO’s regional guidance material (EUR SIGMET and AIRMET Guide – EUR Doc 014) on SIGMET coordination. In addition, the workshop was provided with information on the progress of the development of a graphical tool by the Russian Federation to assist in harmonizing the geographical extent of SIGMET at the FIR boundaries.

SIGMET coordination between the Russian Federation and its adjacent States will expand from the current coordination with Belarus to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Significant SIGMET coordination has already begun amongst some of these neighbouring States (e.g. Georgia and Azerbaijan). Furthermore, Belarus is planning to coordinate on the issuance of SIGMET with Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

Experience on SIGMET coordination thus far has raised many issues that can yield different results when issuing SIGMET. Specifically, differences in radar coverage from FIR to FIR, referencing different numerical weather models, different web platforms in viewing SIGMET and varied human resources available at Meteorological Watch Offices, all of which can contribute in producing different outcomes when issuing SIGMET. These differences may at least in part be overcome by sharing the various sources of information used in issuing SIGMET and utilizing a common web platform for the visualization of SIGMET.

Thus the workshop agreed that coordination on harmonizing the issuance of SIGMET at FIR boundaries was a worthwhile endeavor since both the operators and the service providers benefit from consensus derived information on weather hazards for international civil aviation.

This article was originally written for the ICAO EUR/NAT Office’s Newsletter (Issue 2) on October 2017. A full list of their newsletters can be found here