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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Aug. 16, 2011

Whether the weather is hot or cold, the 89th Weather Flight is in the fight

By Senior Airman Torey Griffith 11th Wing Public Affairs

Unlike the local news station weather person, who is typically expected to give slightly erroneous predictions nearly all the time, the meteorologists the 89th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight meteorologists don't have the luxury of low expectations.

Supporting such assets and missions as Air Force One, the 1st Helicopter Squadron and the 113th District of Columbia Air National Guard, who defend the National Capital Region's airspace with their F-16 Fighting Falcons, accuracy is a must.

"We don't forecast in percentages," said Tech Sgt. Jonathan Liska, 89th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight chief. "We forecast in absolutes."

Offering more than a reminder to grab an umbrella, the flight independently gathers local weather information and combines it with information attained from the regional weather hub at Scott Air Force Base, ill., to provide JBA agencies with an accurate picture of that day's conditions.

Providing critical information about weather events is essential to the preservation of assets on base, mission planning and execution, and the safety of servicemembers. Their information is used from the top down, such as when Air Force One departs and even when the base pool closes said Sean Lewin, 89th OSS meteorological technician.

Real-time information collected by the flight's automated instruments combined with the forecaster's knowledge of the local effects provide the regional hub with a picture of the weather events happening in the NCR.

"The observations we do here are crucial," Lewin said. "Not only are they used here, they go out to the entire world, they help forecast models by giving other meteorologists an idea what is going on in the area."

With knowledge provided by weather stations throughout the world, the forecasters here are able to advise aircrews of weather conditions wherever their missions may take them.
"I think the thing that surprises people the most is how much we are involved with global weather," Liska said. "It's not just Andrews; we are looking at weather all over the world every day."

Getting it right isn't always easy.

"I would say one of the most challenging aspects of the job is forecasting for remote areas where there isn't as much data available," Liska said. "We have to be just as accurate in a remote area in Africa as we do right here on Andrews. The most rewarding part is along those same lines. Getting good feedback from our supporting units is very rewarding."