TUCSON - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base pilots are getting help avoiding stormy skies from a University of Arizona program that allows military weather forecasters to get a clearer picture of what’s happening in the atmosphere.
The program was developed nationally but tailored to Arizona’s unique climate by UA’s Physics and Atmospheric Sciences Department.
The Air Force personnel forecasting the weather at Davis-Monthan are responsible for providing information for all military flights in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains, so it’s important that they use the best technology available, said Capt. Bill Ryerson, a member of the 25th Operational Weather Squadron.
The National Weather Service already puts out forecasts, but the Air Force’s work focuses both on ground conditions and what’s occurring in the atmosphere where the military aircraft are flying.
“Forecasting for aircraft is much more sensitive than determining if it’s going to rain on your picnic on Saturday,” Ryerson said.
Davis-Monthan airmen recently began using the UA’s weather research and forecasting model to get the most accurate forecast possible.
Unlike the National Weather Service model, which measures data at intervals of up to 20 kilometers — about 12 miles — the university’s program measures the weather on a grid with data points roughly 2 kilometers — or about 1.2 miles — apart.
The closer the data points, the better picture forecasters get, meaning surface features that can affect the weather get picked up.