• December 18, 2014

Forecasters keep eyes on the sky

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Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 4:30 am

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Members of the 19th Expeditionary Weather Squadron provide weather and forecast information to military air and ground assets throughout Afghanistan. The information they brief on a daily and sometimes hourly basis plays a major role on any movement taking place that day.

“All military operations are affected by the weather, even if they know it or not,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Bingham, squadron battlefield forecaster out of Fort Hood.

Battlefield forecasters and weather systems support cadre are utilized 24/7 to keep military missions going by maintaining weather equipment and monitoring weather conditions.

By using tactical weather systems, battlefield weather personnel are able to accurately provide detailed information about the surrounding atmosphere.

“The systems observe the current weather conditions for an area which help us decide what the weather is going to do that day,” said Senior Airman Chavis, squadron battlefield forecaster out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

Moving parts

Weather forecasting consists of many moving parts, including models of past weather and atmospheric data, real time data of what is going on, and different algorithms that help predict what the weather is going to do in the future.

“All of these things help us understand what is actually occurring, compared to what the model said is supposed to be happening,” he said.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Karlie Rees, squadron battlefield forecaster out of Fort Riley, Kan., said weather forecasting is very dynamic and numerous variables play into the weather.

“The slightest change in the atmosphere can change the entire forecast,” Rees said.

Every detail matters when it comes to forecasting, so when equipment isn’t properly functioning there are problems across the board.

“When systems are down and give jacked up observations, it not only equals a loss of equipment, but a loss of money and potentially a loss of lives,” Chavis said.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Sarah Doyle, squadron weather systems support cadre out of Camp Blanding, Fla., said it is extremely important to know exactly what’s going on in the sky, not only to keep operations moving, but to give medical evacuation aircraft precise information so they know what to expect when picking up and dropping off patients in different areas.

“If a sensor is malfunctioning and reading clear conditions, and there is a (medical evacuation) running into clouds and can’t see where to land, that’s a big problem,” Doyle said.

Troubleshoot equipment

Which is why Bingham, stationed at Kandahar Air Field, and Doyle, stationed at Bagram Air Field, traveled to Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak to troubleshoot a sensor that was not properly functioning.

“Whenever one sensor is down, less information is available for an accurate forecast,” Bingham said.

“Everything depends on the weather,” Doyle said.

Since there were no weather personnel at Spin Boldak, which is a common occurrence at smaller bases in Afghanistan, Bingham and Doyle made a special trip to make sure all the equipment got back up and running.

“Situations like this go to show how important it is to have weather personnel at as many bases as possible,” Doyle said. “More weather bodies mean a bigger network of communication to fix things a lot quicker and keep birds in the air.”

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