Air Force turns to partners for weather forecasting support

Space

BOSTON – The U.S. Air Force is turning increasingly to U.S. government, industry, academia and international partners for help gathering and making sense of terrestrial and space weather data, Air Force officials said Jan. 13 at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting here.

“We are reaching out to the broader community, both in the U.S. and our international partners, to ensure that we have something as basic as the right observations across Antarctica,” said Col. Gary Kubat, Air Force HQ deputy weather director. “It’s about the size of the continental United States but only has a handful of observations across it.”

The Air Force also is in the process of moving a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration geostationary weather satellite into orbit over the Indian Ocean.  The satellite, previously known as Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-13 and now called Department of Defense-1, is “almost in position” and expected to become fully operational this summer, Kubat said.

In addition, the Air Force is working with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it’s Five Eyes partners, on weather.

Representatives of the Five Eyes nations met in November to discuss expeditionary equipment and tactics, polar modeling and space weather to ensure “resiliency among all of the coalition pieces that work together,” Kubat said.

In terms of space weather, the Air Force is looking to academia and industry for help in data gathering and modeling.

“Industry is starting to stand up with a lot of the commercial satellites,” said Maj. Janelle Jenniges, Air Force Space Weather Integration chief. “Where can we leverage them? Where does that make the most sense?”

For example, the Air Force is looking at commercial sources for Global Navigation Satellite System radio occultation soundings and other observations as well as commercial atmospheric models.

In addition, the Air Force is considering the broader implications of commercial weather data.

“How does that fit in with our resiliency and how do we use those commercial sources to help increase our resiliency,” Jenniges asked.

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