Watchful weather eyes: Forecasters advise base populous of current, future conditions

  • Published
  • By Airman Jack Sanders
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs
A select group of Airmen are keeping weathered eyes over the Pacific Air Forces.

Members of the 3rd Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight coordinate with the 17th Operational Weather Squadron, located at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to provide accurate forecasts for Elmendorf AFB.

The weather flight is the eyes forward for the 17th OWS, said 1st Lt. Nicole Dougherty, 3rd OSS wing weather officer. "Eyes forward" means the weather flight observes the local weather conditions at Elmendorf AFB and reports those conditions back to the 17th OWS in the form of a METAR, or Meteorological Aviation Routine report. The Squadron uses the report to develop the best representative forecast for Elmendorf AFB.

"We discuss the forecast for Elmendorf AFB for the next 24 hours and beyond with the 17th Operational Weather Squadron before they send out the TAF," said Dougherty.

A Terminal Aerodrome Forecast, or TAF for the military, is a 24-hour to 36-hour weather forecast formatted for aviation missions and asset protection. Most military TAFs are rewritten every eight hours to keep up with projected forecasted changes to weather conditions. If weather conditions go outside the forecasted weather criteria, the TAF is corrected, said Dougherty.

Some equipment the weather staff uses is the Kestrel 4000 and the more common Tactical Meteorological Observing System. "The Kestrels are mainly used while on deployments," said Dougherty. "They do things like measure winds, pressure and temperature."

Before reading their weather equipment, they first and foremost must observe the weather. "For example, winds greatly influence the weather," said Dougherty. "Sometimes you can get fog southwest of the runway right behind the ridgeline and depending on the wind direction the fog can move over the runway and reduce visibility, which greatly affects air operations." Another example of how wind impacts operations is when Mount Redoubt erupted earlier this year. "We forecasted the ash trajection, which is influenced by the wind direction," said Master Sgt. Krista Landerneau, 3rd OSS Weather Flight superintendent.

In an emergency situation, the weather staff will provide wing leadership with suggested precautionary measures, said Landreneau.

The weather flight also informs wing leadership of weather throughout PACAF. "For the transition to winter season, we're really looking into freezing precipitation, which really affects base operations," said Dougherty.

At the end of the day, the weather flight's main concern is safety.

"We keep pilots safe by giving them all the weather information they need to keep safe in the sky," said Dougherty.