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Mon, Apr 17, 2006

Naval Air Station Aviation Weather Forecasting Changing, Staying the Same

To improve effectiveness and efficiency, the Navy has started moving toward remote briefing capabilities to forecast weather to Navy pilots, first via facsimile and now to Web-based services. The process began in late 2005, and all changes should be fully in place by the end of 2007.

“This is the biggest change in our community since we merged Navy meteorology and oceanography,” said Rear Adm. Timothy McGee, commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command here, charged with forecasting the weather for Navy operations. “It is part of a restructuring specifically designed to focus Naval Oceanography on warfighting, align our capabilities toward the Navy’s fighting gaps, and generate efficiencies through thoughtful application of innovation, technology and risk.”

The first step has been to take advantage of 21st century computer communications technology to allow the Navy Oceanography community to reduce the number of forecasters by providing the same level of forecasting service from remote locations. These technology advances allow Navy forecasters to provide weather forecasts for any region in the world from a satellite office.

Now forecasters are clustered in hubs and distribute weather forecasts electronically to wherever required. Weather observations flow to the forecasting hubs from every available source along with satellite and radar data and numerical weather prediction model runs.

This advance also has helped the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command change from regional subordinate activities to a matrixed framework arranged along warfighting lines. Gone or going are the six regional forecasting centers, four regional aviation forecasting facilities and more than 20 aviation forecasting detachments. As a result, the command has been able to consolidate a number of leadership positions.

The command also has embraced an automated observer system, Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS), for Navy airfields within the United States.

The command is upgrading ASOS in conjunction with Space
and Naval Warfare Systems Center Charleston to better collect station observation data and streamline the collection process. The upgraded systems will be in line with National Weather Service and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) systems, and report through a common network. ASOS cannot yet meet all of the FAA requirements for station observations, so for now, military observers remain in place at all Navy airfields in the United States until the function can be contracted out.

Over the Web, pilots view forecasts/briefs on a system called Flight Weather Briefer, a system developed at the Naval Oceanographic Office, the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command’s largest subordinate. Pilots can also receive forecasts via fax or telephone.

“With the level of sophistication in weather forecasting today, the continuing improvement through research, not only in the technology but also in the models and the understanding of the atmosphere, we have every expectation that weather forecasting will only get better,” McGee said.



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