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CHIPS Articles: High-Tech Training Tool Aids Air Force Weather Forecasting Students

High-Tech Training Tool Aids Air Force Weather Forecasting Students
By Danielle Nichols, 81st Training Wing - March 28, 2017
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss., March 27, 2017 — In a dark room at the 335th Training Squadron’s Weather Training Complex here, a 48-inch carbon fiber globe hangs suspended from the ceiling with projectors pointing at it from each corner, awaiting its Defense Department debut March 23.

Science on a Sphere is DoD’s newest weather training aid, using computers with high-end graphics cards and video projectors to display data onto the globe.

The wing’s leaders are excited for the opportunity to provide the latest technology and innovative solutions to improve training for their students and instructors.

“The system was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth weather science through animations of atmospheric storms, climate change and ocean temperatures,” said Air Force Capt. Caleb Tynes, a 335th Training Squadron weather training instructor supervisor.

While the globe itself does not move, the animations projected onto the globe give the illusion that the globe rotates just as the Earth does. The system uses animations from more than 500 pre-constructed data packages to enhance the training environment. The animations range from satellite imagery to radar to hurricane-tracking patterns.

Although the system will not display in real time, data can be saved to a disk and projected at any time.

Making Sense of Weather Patterns

Instructors for the Weather Initial Skills and Weather Officer Courses will use the system as a tool to help students gain an enhanced understanding of fundamental atmospheric and oceanographic processes.

Air Force Maj. Sonia Walker, the Weather Training flight commander, believes that bringing in an advanced visual tool will help students have a better understanding of how weather patterns work and how different products compare to one another.

“I think the students are really going to enjoy it,” Walker said. “I think it’s going to be something cool that they will see and think, ‘Oh, that totally makes sense now, I understand what you’re talking about,’ instead of just seeing it on paper or a screen. They’ll see it in 3-D.”

She hopes students will remember the visuals and gain a more in-depth understanding of how weather patterns work and how atmospheric conditions affect things such as thunderstorms, allowing them to forecast in the operational environment with added confidence.

Procurement and installation of the system was a combined effort by the 335th Training Squadron, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, 81st Training Support Squadron, 81st Communications Squadron and 85th Engineering Installation Squadron and the contractors, BWC Visual Technology.

Keesler Air Force Base is the ideal home for the Science on a Sphere system, since all DOD weather students receive their training here.

“We are proud and excited to be the first home for this innovative new tool for our weather students,” said Air Force Col. Michele Edmondson, the 81st Training Wing commander. “This will provide the students a visual tool unlike any other in military weather training and we are excited to unveil it.”

Air Force personnel watch a Science on a Sphere demonstration during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Weather Training Complex at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., March 23, 2017. This latest training aid displays data onto a suspended carbon-fiber sphere helping instructors enhance student’s understanding of the atmosphere. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue
Air Force personnel watch a Science on a Sphere demonstration during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Weather Training Complex at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., March 23, 2017. This latest training aid displays data onto a suspended carbon-fiber sphere helping instructors enhance student’s understanding of the atmosphere. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue
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