14th Weather Squadron to turn 75

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Genevieve Fobes
  • 14th Weather Squadron
Did you know the 14th Weather Squadron is older than the U.S. Air Force, and the squadron celebrates its 75th birthday this September? The unit traces its heritage to its original home at Bolling Field in Washington, D.C., to the days preceding the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.  There it originated as the climatological production branch of the Army Air Forces Weather Research Center's Climatological Section.  By 1943, a data management branch stood up in Winston-Salem, N.C., and for 55 years, the two branches--data storage and production--existed in two geographically-separated locations. Throughout that period, the two climate operations components took on different names and relocated several times.  Finally, in 1998, the production and data branches merged with the world's largest climatological organization, the National Centers for Environmental Information, World Data Center for Meteorology, Asheville, N.C.
The squadron and its mission have evolved significantly over 75 years, aided by technological advancements and expanding requirements for climate services. For example, storage capability has progressed remarkably from the original U.S. Census Bureau technology that stored millions of weather observations on paper punch cards. Despite this rudimentary technology, Allied commanders utilized over 80 million of these weather observations during World War II to enhance U.S. and Allied military operations, including the D-Day invasion and the atomic bombings in Japan. After WWII, data management operations relocated to New Orleans and fused Allied data sources with data captured during the war. By the 1950's, IBM electronic equipment enabled the transition of this weather data to tape storage, once again speeding up management and production. Despite the ever-changing storage methods and growing need for climatological information, the cornerstone mission of the 14th WS remained the same- to collect, protect and exploit authoritative climate data to optimize military and intelligence operations and planning.

Today, the 14 WS uses the most up-to-date database systems available to quickly access millions of records in seconds. The squadron processes over 1.5 million global weather observations and ingests 4.1 terabytes of modeled data each day, continuing to leverage a close partnership with the National Centers for Environmental Information. Tailored requests for the data are responded to rapidly as dictated by the current real-time operating environment, often within a day or two, as opposed to the weeks or months required to navigate the cumbersome storage methods available decades ago. In 2015 alone, the customer service section answered 887 support requests by customizing products unique to each customer, and in 2016, the squadron is on track to answer over 1,000 requests for tailored information. While applied climatology has and will continue to be the bedrock of the squadron's 75-year mission, the demand signal and state of the science are growing to enable defensible long-range predictive capability to inform national defense decision makers.  In response to this growing predictive requirement, the 14th WS expanded its suite of climate services to cover the focus areas of applied climatology, monthly and seasonal climate prediction, and climate projection (multi-decadal climate forecasts).  With the expansion of its climate service capabilities, the 14th WS proudly provides the best customer service in the weather business, and it is therefore no surprise that the 14th WS earned the 557th Weather Wing's Squadron of the Year Award in 2015.

The future is bright for the 14th WS! Expectations and requirements continue to grow in conjunction with technological advancements and emerging strategic geopolitical challenges. Please visit the 14th WS's newest web page, https://www.climate.af.mil/. Here's to another successful and fruitful 75 years at the 14th WS!