Deployed weather Airmen keep birds out of stormy conditions

  • Published
  • By Capt. Angela M. Webb
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Many may not think much of rain, fog or mostly sunny days here, but to a base that conducts 30 percent of U.S. Air Forces Central Command's air tasking order sorties, weather monitoring is no simple matter.

The 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight conducts around-the-clock weather support for 379th Air Expeditionary Wing missions within the CENTCOM area of responsibility and the Horn of Africa. The team combines current meteorological observations from the local airfield with regional aviation weather products to produce mission execution forecasts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.

"Weather phenomena--such as temperature, wind speed, cloud heights and visibility--are some of the elements we compile 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said Capt. Ken Fenton, weather flight commander. "Forecasters working in the weather flight fine tune the output from weather computer models to ensure the aviation weather conditions for missions are as accurate as possible."

The weather flight works closely with the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group, tenant units and transient aircraft to help aviators decide whether scheduled missions can go as planned or need to be changed.

"Thunderstorms and reduced visibility due to fog or sandstorms are the most frequent weather hazards in Southwest Asia," Fenton said. "Accurate forecasts of fog made days in advance can affect mission planning. Aircraft may be diverted to other regional airfields during periods of inclement weather."

The weather flight coordinates forecasts with the 28th Operational Weather Squadron in Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. The 28 OWS publishes a terminal aerodrome forecast to worldwide databases, which specifies the local weather for the next 30-hour period. The TAF is disseminated by the 28th OWS after receiving guidance from the local weather experts here.

"We look at the instability of the atmosphere, and if it is indeed unstable with some type of lifting mechanism from a cold front, or just surface heating. Then there must be ample moisture present, and some exhaust from divergent winds aloft," said Senior Airman Clifton McGhar, weather forecaster, explaining how to detect an incoming thunderstorm. "All of these elements happening in the same place indicate an area of thunderstorm development, and the degrees to which we have these elements help us determine the severity of the thunderstorm."

The weather flight is also responsible for coordinating the issuance of weather advisories, watches and warnings.

"My favorite part of the job is listening to my bosses debate weather forecasts," said McGhar. "You learn something new all the time."