Air Weather Service (Air Force Weather Agency)

Veterans of the old Air Weather Service look at the new equipment being used today in the Air Force Weather Agency and we shake our heads.  The 21st Air Force in Europe has some really nice gear while the old machines were more like Machines than sophisticated Weather Electonics of today.

ImageImageImage  A lot has transpired since I left the Military on Aug,  11,  1985.    The Weather Service itself used to be affiliated with Army,  then the Air Air Force and finally the Air Force as we know it today.   With all that change it was not only the designations but also the equipment that went through a kind of technological renaissance as well.     From the more crude analog equipment and FPS-77 Weather Radar to newer NEXRAD and Doppler Radar.

The power curve for this new Weather product has brought the Air Force into the modern world.   The newness of our equipment quite naturally will be determined by funding but quality forecasts and operational issues have kind of forced the Pentagon’s hand a bit and really that is a good thing.

While stationed at Ramstein,  our teletype machine was crude and very tempermental.  And you had to stand by waiting for the cue.   At Ramstein our cue was VB and you were that maybe the ticker tape would break and that would really suck.

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My weather observations were dependent on-real time weather data.  That data and this doesn’t include live satellite imagery so we were kind of limited as back then (1980ish) we had to wait for the GOES (GeoSynchronous) for the latest run.   Today that is not even a problem.   Up to the minute satellite shots make forecasts easier by far and you do not even need anything more than a PC.

The fax charts had scheduled runs so that information was a premium to us.   With newer satellites and sophicated equipment the different kinds of photos are so many that it is hard to keep up.   Water Vapor Charts,  Infrared Imagery and experimental algorithms have given the forecaster more to work.

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Satellite imagery can reveal thunderstorm tops and locations and further enhanced what radar imagery could do.    For example,  the radar may indicate some weather but if you look at the satellite you can determine whether that is in fact storms.   Sometimes radars would show what appeared to be rain when in fact it might just be buildings,  geese or false echoes.

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We also use other equipment which is what I call a weather matrix.  All this data would enhance our understanding.   Next is the weather fax machines.   It was actually a radio broadcast that was downlinked from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to our receiver at the Base Weather Station.

One other thing is that we actually had hand held equipment for use in the field.   I will show more of that down the line.    When I was in the first fax machines actually burned the images

These charts were then torn off the fax machine/date and time stamped and hung on the walls of the Forecaster’s area.

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These charts would sometimes be 20 feet long and we would have to process this paperwork so the forecasters could use it.   The other equipment was generally stacked and configured as you see below.

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To the far left was the Rotating Beam Ceilometer and it was used to use cloud bases below 3,000 AGL (Above Ground Level) .  Next to the right of the RBC was the Temperature and Dewpoint Indicators in Fahrenheit back then.

Next to the right of Temperature Indicator was the RO-362,  wind indicator.  This was a record of winds during any 24 hour period.   We would take checks to make sure it was synchronized and signed with our initials.   Peak wind gusts were noted as were windshifts (WSHFT).

The final piece of equipment was the Transmissometer which actually helped us determine the Runway Visual Range (RVR).   Base Operations would go out to the runway and determine if there was ice or snow on the Runway.   We would then report that to the Air Traffic Control via local and longline through our observations.

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From left to the right is a wind recorder, Comeds (longline transmissions) and temperature hut that protected the temperature from the sun and actually a fan to replicate wet bulb temperatures for humidity.

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Image There are two other pressure indicators and the upper left is used to determine station pressure in MB/IN and Pressure Altitude and the bottom left is the mercurial barometer which is used to calibrate the Aneroid and Microbarograph and these were checked every day.

Upper right was the teleautowriter that is a box with a pen and we would write on that and Air Traffic Controllers and Alert Aircraft would be notified,  especially the pressure because  that would tell the pilot where he was above the surface.  Pressure Altitude (PA).

The following is an updated Base Weather Station.   It includes holographs,  Upper Air Soundings (every 15 minutes) and Satellite,  Remote Observation Site and Flight weather Briefings and Terminal Area Forecasts.

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Sunday’s Weather 101313 11AM

Weather in the central US is typical for Spring along with the warming temperatures.   The east coast has been under the influence of a Low Pressure Are that is weakening and moving eastward.   The Central USA has a lot rain forecast with the potential for rain and or storms.

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This chart basically describes the weather precipitation-wise across the USA.   The forecast for the next couple days or so will be very active with the threat of some heavy weather and perhaps some severe.

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Looks like this may be a very active snow season and possibly across the southeast as well.   The basic issue there is cold air from the Polar Region and the warm moist air that is circulated over top the cold air mass.   This is called the Arctic Oscillation Pattern.

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During the last Winter Olympics,   we have a reversal where that cold air drove south and left the Canada region with warmer than normal temperatures and remember these fluxes are not necessarily driven by any kind of climate change caused by man and if anyone tries to tell you different,  they have an agenda.

http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/weather_climate_patterns.html

The above link can be pasted into your internet browser and you can get a more detailed look at what these systems do and how it affects winter weather.  Remember,   weather is cyclical.    Highs and Lows come and go while semi-permanent systems migrate around in a particular area like the Bermuda High.   This too can affect storm tracks and create mid-latitude cyclones that can dump huge snow falls across the entire southeast and especially the Cape Hatteras Low on the NC coastal region.

Wave patterns and jet streams are the virtual highways of storm systems.   If you see a front off the coast of Oregon and that region you will be experiencing a snow event over the Rockies,  this time of year.

http://virga.sfsu.edu/crws/jetstream.html

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The chart here is the 300MB (30,000) feet winds and the shaded areas represent Jet Stream winds and you can see the western USA has a deep trough,  in otherwords Low Pressure and low pressure equals weather whether is be rain,  snow or high winds for example.

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Weather Altercations

As a member of the fraternity of forecasters I have my own take on all things weather.    First is the Gore Zombies who meticulously support his hyperbole and say that we Meteorologists are not defacto Climatologists.   I know that I am addressing ‘talking points’  when they say forecaster/meteorologists are not experts on climatology.

There is a lot of unwarranted attacks and most have no bearing or relevance on the topic at hand.    Weather is not political and it should never be.

Today we have an ersatz Hurricane sitting in Northern Gulf of Mexico trying to figure out where to go and forecasters trying to figure out where it is moving.   In 2004,  we had a Hurricane do a pirouette and hit the state three different times.   I also spent two weeks without electricity at home because one of those four storms decided to make it personal.

So if you say we don’t know what we are doing,  you may be right but then again these systems are not prone to reason.   Winds are steering currents but what if you do not have any winds to give you a clue?    Normally you have a motion that goes north,  northeast and east and away from land.   And that is okay except Height Falls (lower pressure a loft) and even cold fronts that hold their own kind of sway.

You also have the Bermuda High which you cannot overcome and the systems largely just go around it.   El Nino (ENSO) and La Nina.   Twins with a propensity for throwing all theories into virtual chaos.   The forecaster battles a ton of information to and must decide whether that formation is relevant or not.    Sometimes we go with our instincts and sometimes those are miscalculated.

All these different airmasses,  long and short wave patterns,  vorticity,  Coriolis  Polar Jet,  Subtropical Jet and a myriad of other variables so convoluted and ambiguous that it is any wonder who we can digest it all.   Climatology is the basis for every single forecast,  bare none.

So if Karen is doing the Salsa or the Horizontal Mamba,   you know why or least have a clue to these mysteries;