More options available for those seeking meteorology degrees

  • Published
  • By Ryan Hansen
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
The extended forecast for those striving to earn a degree in meteorology just became a little clearer thanks to a recently announced distance learning educational program.

The University of Arizona's Department of Atmospheric Sciences here is creating a new distance learning program where students can earn a bachelor of applied sciences degree in meteorology.

"We hope that within 12 months, all BAS courses will be available online," said Dr. Eric Betterton, head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. "Until that happens, (students) will begin their educations on campus in Tucson and transition to distance learning as the courses are made available."

The new program was created in direct response to the needs of Airmen at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Located only a few miles away from the university's campus, the base is home to the 25th Operational Weather Squadron. As a regional weather hub, the squadron serves as one of six training centers for all new enlisted forecasters and weather officers.

"We focused on meteorology because there are roughly 200 weather forecasters stationed at Davis-Monthan," Doctor Betterton said.

The new online program has the potential to be a godsend for the squadron's enlisted forecasters looking to further their education.

"The University of Arizona BAS program will provide a rare opportunity for our active duty enlisted weather troops to earn a bachelors degree in weather through distance learning, so this is a great opportunity for them," said Lt. Col. Lee Byerle, 25th OWS commander.

"The online portions of the program will allow Airmen to work around their rotating schedules, enabling them to further their education without impacting their ability to contribute to the mission," said Master Sgt. Tim Legg, chief of the 25th OWS Mission Execution Support Flight, who is one of the first to enroll in the program.

"Being the first bachelor's in meteorology from a major institution, and the fact that they accept the (Community College of the Air Force's) weather-related credits, I can see this being a huge boon for those looking to make Air Force weather a career," Sergeant Legg added.

In addition to proximity, this new program was also established because of the relationship between the school and base. Since 2007, a pro-active effort has been made by base leadership to establish professional collaborations with the local community, and the 25th OWS has taken full advantage of that.

"The relationship (between the squadron and the University of Arizona) has flourished," Colonel Byerle said.

The university's high resolution weather model, which focuses on forecasting lightning, winds, hail and heavy rain associated with the North American monsoon, is used by the squadron and entered into their LEADS system for further exploitation.

"For its part, the 25th OWS has been actively providing feedback on the model through internal verification techniques, which has enabled (the University of Arizona's Department of Atmospheric Sciences) to make improvements and modernizations to the system," Colonel Byerle said.

To further highlight this growing relationship, Doctor Betterton was inducted as a 25th OWS honorary squadron commander in October.

"No matter how often I see them, I'm always surprised by how young the squadron members are, and how well and enthusiastically they perform their assignments," Doctor Betterton said. "This country owes all our young military men and women an enormous debt of gratitude."

So while Airmen at Davis-Monthan may currently have a leg up on others in their career field looking to earn a bachelor's degree in meteorology, soon everyone in the Air Force will have the same opportunity as them.

"Our objective is that an Airman will be able to complete their degree where ever in the world they are stationed without losing a single credit unit," Doctor Betterton said.

"This is an exciting opportunity to blaze a trail for Air Force weather and perhaps for the Air Force in general," Sergeant Legg said. "If this program succeeds, I can see it expanding to other scientific career-fields, enabling a larger group of Airmen to further their education."

For more information on the new program, visit the department's Web site at