Weather forecaster's work is never complete

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chad Thompson
  • 90th Space Wing Public Affairs
Before the duty day begins, organizations around Warren call on the support of one of the silent watchers -- the weather forecaster.

The 90th Operation Support Squadron Weather Flight supplies the base and 153rd Airlift Wing with valuable weather forecasts for operations.

"A typical day starts at 4 a.m.," said Tech. Sgt. Aaron Wesson, 90th OSS. "We do weather briefings for the operations group, security forces group, maintenance group, Twentieth Air Force, Wyoming Air National Guard, and before missile maintenance crews or missileers go out to the field we give them a three-day forecast."

The overall mission of the weather flight is simple: timely and accurate weather prediction for the base, missile fields and Wyoming ANG.

"The operation dictates the products and forecasts we produce," said Capt. Andrew Mercer, 90th OSS Weather Flight commander. "When you deal with nuclear weapons, everyone must give their best, and weather is no exception. We can't be perfect but we try."

Sometimes weather is difficult to predict, but every organization has a necessity and the weather flight tries to give a forecast fit for each situation.

"Whether they need to know road conditions, or maintenance crews need to know wind forecasts, or security forces need a convoy brief; this shop does it all and we tailor the forecast for each operation," Sergeant Wesson said.

When you are dealing with an area as big as Warren and its surrounding missile fields, the weather can bring a whole new challenge and it is important that every missile alert facility and launch facility crews get the information they need.

"Warren is unique in that we provide 12,600 miles of coverage for all the missile fields, compared to other bases where they are only responsible for the base and about a five-mile radius around the base," Sergeant Wesson said. "If a tornado or severe weather is going to hit Bravo flight, they need to know."

Weather prediction demands advanced sensors and technology, and Warren is in the process of receiving upgrades. The weather flight is in the process of updating software and equipment so that they can provide the base better resource protection.

"We are getting new sensors at Warren and November flight in April and Bravo, Echo and Mike sometime in late 2008 or early 2009, which drastically improves our coverage area and gives us better data to work with," Sergeant Wesson said. "Eventually we hope to have full coverage over all the missile fields and we are very excited to be getting the new sensors."

"The new weather sensors will help give us needed weather data on the airfield and in the complex where data is sparse," Captain Mercer said. "We will be able to see incoming weather better with the addition of the sensor at Mike which will improve the accuracy of our forecasts."

They are also getting a new lightning detector before the storm season begins next year. The sensor they have now only detects lightning strikes from the clouds to the ground. The new sensor they are getting will detect cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-air strikes as well.

"Cloud-to-ground detection is important, but it is also important to see the cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-air strikes because of our helicopters," Sergeant Wesson said. "So the new system we are getting this spring will definitely fill a hole we have and make our helicopter operations much safer."

Weather forecasters play an important role of the Air Force mission, but when others go home for the day or get released early due to inclement weather, they still have to keep an eye on the storm.