Air Force Weather Agency supports NOAA

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Miles Brown
  • Air Force Weather Public Affairs
The Air Force Weather Agency recently assumed the operational backup role for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Camp Springs, Md.

AFWA's meteorological satellite applications branch has generated volcano summaries since 1998 and monitored volcanic emissions for Department of Defense agencies for more than a year.

"(Meteorological satellite) analysts watch, on average, 60 active volcanoes worldwide," said Tech. Sgt. John Kramer, superintendent of meteorological satellite applications at the weather agency. "From these observations, we generate warnings every six hours. If the eruption intensity or ash level increases, we update our warnings to ensure all DOD agencies have the most current information."

These warnings keep flying units and commanders on top of changing conditions in active volcanic regions, where ash clouds from large eruptions can reach altitudes of 60,000 to 65,000 feet and cover several hundred square miles, Kramer said. The ash and debris from an active eruption can clog engine intakes and reduce visibility to next to zero. Because of this, current ash advisories are critical to all flying units operating in active volcanic regions.

AFWA is now the backup for civilian flights in an area of responsibility that includes the continental United States southward through Central America and the Caribbean, to 10 degrees south in South America, and the U.S.-controlled oceanic flight information regions.

In the event of a failure at the NOAA advisory center, located at the World Weather Building in Camp Spring, Md., the meteorological satellite applications branch will furnish text advisories and graphical ash plume forecast products via the National Weather Service's communications gateway center in Silver Springs, Md.

This is not the only service agreement between AFWA and others, said Lt. Col. John Egentowich, chief of the global weather center division at AFWA.

"We have numerous other arrangements, all of which are aimed at providing uninterrupted support in case of a long-lasting outage at one of the government forecasting agencies," Egentowich said. "These agreements highlight the interoperability between forecasting agencies and are a positive assurance of continuation of services for the country."