Air Force’s Air Combat Command Orders Study on Long-Term Weather Threats

Air Force’s Air Combat Command Orders Study on Long-Term Weather Threats

An Air Force team of weather specialists recently conducted a long-term forecast of how the service’s Air Combat Command might address increasing climate change threats, Air Force Magazine reports.

The climate threat assessment, ordered by ACC Commander Gen. Mike Holmes, called on the 14th Weather Squadron based in Asheville, N.C., to produce a weather threat assessment for a 50-mile radius around ACC’s main operating bases, as well as two other major installations where ACC maintains a significant presence, according to the report.

The specialists also used the assessment to predict how threats could change over time and impact installation resiliency, according to Ryan Hansen, spokesman for the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

“Assessed phenomena included extreme temperatures, droughts, high winds, floods, wildfires, severe weather, and instrument flight rule conditions,” Hansen said.

The threat assessment could aid the Air Force in investing in long-term strategies to protect itself from extreme weather events like Category 5 Hurricane Michael that devastated Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. last fall, and historic flooding Offutt AFB this spring, as On Base has reported.

“Without getting into a political argument about when and why, we know that sea level is rising, at least for now, around the world,” Gen. Holmes explained during a conference in June. “I wanted to have them give me at least some kind of forecast of what’s going to happen so we can figure that into the investments that we make.”

“I felt like it needed to be part of the puzzle, that as we look at the Air Force we need, as we think about our long-term basing, part of where the basing should be, is whether it will be underwater 50 years from now or not,” he said.

The 14th Weather Squadron specialists also assessed locations where altitude and temperature drive aircraft performance problems, areas that are prone to extreme tornadoes and tropical storms, and more, according to the report.

“After Tyndall, I had people write me notes and say, ‘You know, this is why you should never have anything in a hurricane, you should move everything inland,” Holmes said at the conference. “I see your point, but with a hurricane, I get 72 hours’ notice. With the tornadic activity at Offutt or Tinker, I might get a few hours’ notice.”

In May 2013, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., narrowly missed being struck by a massive tornado that left 24 dead in Moore, Okla., just three miles south of the installation.

Relocation of assets to the West Coast could place them in danger of wildfires, Holmes noted.

“There are trade-offs—there’s no one place that would be the magic answer,” Holmes said. “Forces have to be spread out around the country to effectively defend the homeland and to ensure aircraft remain if some are damaged in one part of the country.”

In June, ACC released findings of a severe weather readiness action team that analyzed four case studies to support commanders during the 2019 hurricane season and installations near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The command also expects to issue readiness guidance to all wings, numbered Air Forces, and direct reporting units in U.S. “high-risk areas”, according to the report.

Air National Guard photo by Amber Williams

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