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DO A Step Offshore
by RTS Staff
Dec 4 2008

RTS Weather Station Operation Evolution

In 2007 Atmospheric Technology Services Company, LLC (ATSC) contracted with the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command to provide Meteorological Support Services to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (RTS) at the United States Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA). As part of the management planning for the contract, ATSC provided plans to remote selected functions of the RTS Weather Station to a mainland site in support of RTS Transformation. Important goals of the plan included maintaining a high level of meteorological support services to USAKA/RTS while reducing ATSC's Kwajalein based staff by about 40 percent.

Tremendous progress has been made during the past year developing and testing the necessary systems architecture to establish a Distributed Operations (DO) forecast office at ATSC headquarters in Norman Oklahoma. Meteorologists working at the DO office are able to monitor and control important RTS weather observing systems, such as the KPOL weather radar, which provide information necessary to issue weather warnings and forecasts. They also have remote access to meteorological satellite data, surface observations, weather forecast model output, and tropical cyclone and tsunami bulletins for our region. In essence, it is as if the DO meteorologist is here at Kwajalein, with the exception that their feet are on the red dirt of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma DO office is staffed by veteran RTS meteorologists Vanessa Richard, who PCS'd from Kwajalein last June, and Brian Morrison. Between the two of them, they have over 14 years of on-site Kwajalein forecasting experience. With Vanessa Richard's arrival, the DO office began operational testing to validate and improve the systems architecture, develop procedures, and to identify and resolve any problems. Over the past few months the final phase of testing involved conducting parallel forecasting operations. For this the DO office produced all warnings and forecasts during the Kwajalein forecaster midnight shift, but with a meteorologist still on site at the Weather Station to verify all shift requirements were met with the same high standards of excellence.

The success in developing and testing our remote forecast operation has brought us to the next transition step in which our Oklahoma DO forecast office assumes full responsibility for normal weekday midnight shift forecast operations. Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, during the Kwajalein hours of midnight and eight AM, the DO meteorologist will be providing all weather warnings and forecasts for the island. A forecaster will not be on duty at the Kwajalein Weather Station during this time and phone calls to 53347 for forecast information will be directed to the DO office at 405 325 0050. An important aspect of this operation is maintaining communications between the DO and Kwajalein. Should communications fail, procedures are in place to notify an on-call Kwajalein based meteorologists to immediately proceed to the weather station and assume forecast and warning responsibilities. Support for RTS missions and any emergency operations during these overnight hours will continue to be conducted by on-site meteorologists.

In conjunction with RTS Transformation plans, ATSC will expand its Distributed Operations capabilities to Huntsville, Alabama in the future. Although there will be other hurdles to overcome, ATSC will apply innovation and cutting-edge technologies to meet these goals, while still maintaining its full level of service and excellence to USAKA/RTS and the Kwajalein community.

The weather forecasts and warnings produced for Kwajalein by ATSC meteorologists are provided to the public via AFN TV Channel 13, and are printed in the Hourglass.

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