Met Techs assist storm tracking for hurricane Florence

Sergeant Emmanuelle Dompierre prepares to launch a weather balloon
Sergeant Emmanuelle Dompierre, a Meteorological Technician at the Joint Meterological Centre in Gagetown, N.B., prepares to launch a weather balloon. The information gathered by the balloon will be shared with the U.S. National Hurricane Center and other international agencies to improve the forecast quality for weather systems such as Hurricane Florence. Photo: Corporal Brandon Merriam

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By Warrant Officer Cory Engerdahl

Not many people think about weather that is half a world away, but that isn’t the case for the military Meteorological Technicians (Met Techs) and Environment and Climate Change Canada staff at the Joint Meteorological Centre (JMC).

Tasked with supporting Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations world-wide, JMC staff work tirelessly to ensure that CAF receives timely, accurate, and mission-critical weather information 24/7. Having a world-wide awareness of current weather in co-operation with international weather agencies is vital for meeting our mandate.

The weather doesn’t respect international borders; lines drawn on a map hold little meaning for the atmosphere. Because of this, weather agencies around the globe share data in order to provide meteorologists with the information required to produce weather forecasts. At the JMC, this is no different.

JMC actively participates in the international weather community in ways that may surprise outsiders. For example, as I type this piece, hurricane Florence is making landfall in North Carolina. The JMC has been helping contribute to the U.S. National Hurricane Center’s life-saving storm track forecast for almost a week. To this end, JMC has augmented our weather balloon launch schedule, thereby providing weather models with additional data. This data helps improve the quality of computer modelling, and in the case of hurricane Florence, helps give the public additional time to evacuate impacted areas.

Weather balloons not only aid in forecasting; they also have a military use. The Earth’s atmosphere affects anything that moves through it. It directly impacts bullets, shells, aircraft, and even electromagnetic waves. Winds, temperature profile, moisture content, atmospheric pressure, and the change of these values, as height increases, have an impact on military operations. CAF Met Techs can use the information gathered with weather balloons to advise on potential impacts on operations. These impacts are taken into account during mission planning, in order to improve mission quality and efficiency.

Whether at home or abroad, Met Techs continue to use weather balloons to support the CAF and Canada. We accomplish this through cooperation with national and international partners. This cooperation will continue to bear fruit for the CAF, as improved data informs the Met Tech’s advice to command, and improved weather forecasts benefit the public safety of all Canadians.

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