Alexis Di Mercurio is using partial differential equations to predict the weather conditions at Atlantic City International Airport. Her calculations have the potential to prevent disasters on the runway.
Air traffic controllers caution pilots of upcoming wake turbulence—spirals of wind formed by aircrafts in flight—as they approach the runway for landing. When a plane encounters turbulence that hasn’t dissipated from the runway, its aerodynamic capabilities are disrupted.
A really precise model of weather is needed to determine just how close planes can land on the same runway, explained Joseph Trout, associate professor of Physics. Safe aircraft separation standards determine the timing of successive takeoffs and landings. “Wake turbulence can be dangerous,” said Trout.
Di Mercurio, a rising senior Mathematics major and Physics minor with a concentration in Secondary Education, is fine tuning the national Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and comparing it to actual weather data collected at the Atlantic City International Airport.