An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

New weather sensor improves CMAFS forecasting

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Only 10 miles and several hundred feet of elevation separate Peterson Air Force Base from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. Weather conditions across the local area can vary drastically, however, presenting a challenge for the 21st Operations Support Squadron weather flight and CMAFS personnel who work there.

According to Master Sgt. Nathan Willems, 21st OSS weather flight chief, weather for CMAFS is predicted by observers at Peterson. "There can be a very significant difference. It can be 42 degrees down here and it will be snowing at Cheyenne Mountain," he said.

Until recently, making these observations required some guess work because the weather sensor was only located at Peterson, but thanks to a new weather sensor suite at the mountain, observers at Pete now know exactly what conditions are like at CMAFS.

The new weather sensor measures visibility, precipitation, temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction, and it has a laser ceilometer that measures whether there are clouds in the sky.

"Now that we have the data, we can improve our forecasting and the information we provide to the commanders so they make better decisions on what to do with personnel and plowing the roads," Willems said.

Providing better forecasting for CMAFS is important for several reasons.

First, there is one road in and out of the mountain. "The road is so steep they have to make sure it stays clear. Any amount of snow could be a hazard on that road," Willems said.

The Air Force considers two inches of snow within 12 hours significant snowfall. However, because of the road, trace snow amounts are significant to those who work on CMAFS. "We give an advisory, watch or warning to everybody. When we put out that trace snow advisory, that drives other people to do their jobs. The civil engineers will say, 'OK, they put out the warning, let's put the drivers on standby,'" Willems said.

CMAFS is a 24-hour priority level one installation, so keeping the road clear at all times is vital.

There is also a helipad at the mountain. Having better knowledge of the weather conditions will make landing at the helipad safer, he said.

Finally, there are certain weather events that can happen on a mountain that aren't really a threat at Peterson. Winds near the mountain can be especially fierce, Willems said. Though it's rare, occasionally these winds can damage vehicles in the parking lot.

"We will sometimes get phone calls asking for the wind speeds on a particular day because someone is making an insurance claim," he said. Now they will have the exact information.

Quick pressure changes on the mountain can also blow out windows in vehicles.

"That kind of stuff can happen on a mountain, it's rare but now we will know the conditions," he said.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui