They wear camo to blend in, while we wear bright colors to stand out. But at the end of the day meteorologists in the military and the ones you see on TV have the same goal; to provide an accurate forecast and keep people safe.
There are plenty of similarities between meteorology and the military. You’ve heard Storm Team 3 talk about fronts. Fronts separate different types of air masses. During World War I Norwegian meteorologists visualized these as battlefronts. That’s where they got their name. We also talk about the position of the jet stream. American bombers in World War II sometimes encountered unusually strong headwinds. On return flights they noticed strong westerly tailwinds, allowing meteorologists to gain a better understanding of what drives our weather.
I’ve read about the way past military events helped meteorologists learn more about the atmosphere…but since we live in a military town I wanted to dive deeper. I took a trip to Hunter Army Airfield to learn the differences between my job and that of a meteorologist in the Air Force.
Captain Kevin Brenner, Unit Commander of the 318th Weather Squadron says it all begins with education, “the air force has always driven degreed meteorologists to be their officers”
As for the Airmen who work under Brenner, “they’re getting a crash course in physics, and math, all the forecasting, how to draw their charts, how to generate forecasts, how to read meteorological code, how to take manual observations”
Once they learn these skills, “how to read surface maps, how to read a 500 mb chart, how to read the models to know exactly when a storm is coming”
They are able to apply to a real life situation, “where they can actually identify a tornado using radar software, put out warning to the base, initiate the tornado siren and get people to shelter.”
Brenner and his team provide all of the weather services for the 3rd ID soldiers in town and in the field, “we train to do forecasting in a deployed environment(limited data forecasting) you could be trying to generate a forecast in the middle of the desert, where your closer weather sensor is 300 miles away, you may have a satellite, that’s it”
But that’s not the only challenge a Staff Weather Officer faces. Brenner says a big challenge is “conveying the weather to someone who doesn’t understand weather, they understand bullets bombs, soldiers, etc well I have to explain how the weather will impact them”
Something else military and broadcast meteorologists agree on, “weather is finicky, as far as the sciences it’s one of the newest, i think people take that for granted with their cell phones and models.”
All jokes aside we both agreed the title of meteorologist gives you a lot of pride, “you feel good about doing what you’re doing, generally a thankless job, like you said people only complain when it’s raining on their kids birthday”
Brenner says “getting that sense of accomplishment that knowing what were doing is helping achieve our national security objectives. He ended with “were going to get the job done and were going to win because that’s what the United States military does.”