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Peterson AFB Weather Flight keeps an eye on the sky

Staff Sgt. Corrine Carlson, weather forecaster for the 21st Operations Support Squadron weather flight, checks satellite imagery for future weather events at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Aug. 1, 2016. Carlson is one of 11 forecasters keeping base personnel notified of potential severe weather.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

Staff Sgt. Corrine Carlson, weather forecaster for the 21st Operations Support Squadron weather flight, checks satellite imagery for future weather events at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Aug. 1, 2016. Carlson is one of 11 forecasters keeping base personnel notified of potential severe weather. (U.S. Air Force photo by Philip Carter)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Members of Team Pete can go outside and look up to see clear blue skies. With how inconsistent the weather can be in Colorado, two hours later there are sirens blowing and the base is under a tornado warning, which is why it is fortunate to have a skilled weather flight keeping watch.

The 21st Operations Support Squadron weather flight supports the mission with a variety of resources here.

The primary mission is forecasting the weather for the pilots who take off from Peterson, and to provide weather support to wing staff and the base. They also monitor the geographically separated units for severe weather, said Capt. Shannon Kranich, 21st OSS weather flight commander.

“We brief pretty much anything weather related,” said Staff Sgt. Shane Beattie, 21st OSS section chief of standards and evaluations. “Briefings to air crews include conditions about ice, cloud cover, wind shear, turbulence and precipitation.”

The organizations that use the weather flight the most is the 302nd Airlift Wing and the 200th Airlift Squadron here. The 302nd AW operates C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft, which can be equipped for a firefighting mission. The weather flight provides information to the Modular Airborne Firefighting System briefs for fire support. The information that is provided to the MAFFS briefings are mostly about low-level wind shears.

In addition, if organizations are planning a base function, like the many 21st Force Support Squadron events, they can call for weather support. The weather flight can help plan fun runs, squadron picnics, ceremonies or any outside events, especially during thunderstorm season.

One of the things unique to the 21st Space Wing is that this weather flight has a space weather component used primarily by 21st SW GSUs. Since the GSU radars that track objects in space are affected by any kind of solar weather, like solar winds, solar flares or corona mass ejection, the flight forecasts space weather to mitigate interference with radar signals.

Back on the ground, it is very difficult to predict the weather in Colorado Springs, said Kranich. This area is the primary source for most of the weather over the central plains because there are several different micro-climates scattered throughout the city. Most of the storms seen rolling out toward Kansas originated here.

For instance, the most recent thunderstorm July 28. The weather flight predicted hail at around 2 p.m., but it was changing quickly.

“This storm was a once in a lifetime event with the size of the hail,” said Kranich. “I lived in Oklahoma for eight years and, even with the tornados, this is as bad as I’ve seen.”

During severe weather, the flight coordinates with the 25th Operational Weather Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. They communicate with each other on weather watches, warning and advisories going out, but ultimately what is observed in the local area is what is issued and disseminated to the base populace through computer pop-up notifications.

The weather flight has two shifts to monitor the weather 24/7 to keep Airmen notified on current conditions. So the next time an outdoor event needs planning, Airmen can be secure knowing the 21st OSS weather flight is keeping an eye on the sky.

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