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Air Force Weather

  Air Force Weather goes ON THE AIR
by Jodie Grigsby
Air Force Weather Agency
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFNS) -- American Forces Network is ready to keep servicemen and their families out of the rain, snow, sleet, and all sorts of weather. The Air Force Weather Agency along with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services, which operates AFN, have formed a cooperative effort to provide a new AFN weather service to audiences worldwide. "We know we are pioneers," stated Staff Sgt. Darren Hughes. As one of the six men and women who will now be broadcasting the first worldwide weather forecasts for U.S. military members and their dependents, he is right. Previously those stationed in remote areas had to rely on local weather forecasts, although usually not in English. A fortunate few might be stationed where a military meteorologist went above his or her duty and provided a non-operational local weather forecast. However, most simply had to do without. These first-ever worldwide weather broadcasts will provide a familiar weather format to Armed Forces television viewers. The "Americanized" broadcasts will include all the comforts of home: high and low temperatures, cloud cover, significant weather predictions, and extended forecasts for key military locations, which can sometimes be a great distance from the host nation's major cities. The weather reports will vary from one to two minutes, depending on the region being reported. They will be aired in the morning and again during the evening, and available to anyone with access to AFN. The forecasts are not designed for operational use by military forces. They will simply add to the quality of life of those stationed in remote areas by providing weather and travel planning information. The American Forces Network weather broadcasts are currently scheduled to provide weather information to 118 cities in 61 countries and 2 territories. The demand for this service is immense; AFRTS receives requests for additional sites daily. Air Force surveys in the Pacific have indicated that local weather information is the most desired improvement for AFN. The home of the AFN Weather Center is located within the Air Force Weather Agency here. Although a long way from many of the intended forecast sites, customers can expect accurate up-to-date forecasts. The latest weather observations, model data, and forecast products are collected through a variety of sources, including the Internet, Air Force Weather Information Network, Satellite Data Handling System Upgrade, and the Weather Services International weather producer system. These worldwide broadcasts are a testimonial to the state-of-the-art technology and forecasting techniques available. The broadcasts will be transmitted from Offutt AFB to the AFRTS Broadcast Center at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. The weather reports will then be added to the AFN news broadcasts. The special assistant to the commander for Agency and Systems Integration, Col. Thomas Accola, agrees that agency forecasters are capable of creating accurate weather forecasts, for the worldwide consumer. "We are the one place that can bring together people, information, and processing power to broadcast worldwide weather." Some concerns have been raised about this new service replacing weather services already provided in some locations served by a local AFN station. However, the chief of the AFN branch, Senior Master Sgt. Michael Moore, reassures that this new service is intended to compliment and not replace current services. Moore stated that there will be "different forecasts for different audiences." In fact, Moore says that the meteorologists stationed in these remote areas will be key to the success of AFN broadcasts. "Their observations, forecasts, and discussions will be essential elements in the weather products we air." When asked whether he believes his team will be up to the challenge, Moore was confident in their abilities. He stated that it would be an excellent opportunity to, "demonstrate world-wide capabilities and showcase the spirit and dedication of Air Force Weather personnel." Hughes was also optimistic of their abilities, "Its a challenge we can meet -- we'll succeed at this challenge."
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