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Weather unit works to improve heat stress calculations

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  • By 96th Weather Squadron

Throughout this past summer, the 96th Weather Squadron (96 WS) gathered more weather data than usual with their participation in a campaign to research wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) parameters. WBGT is a measure of heat stress, and involves several factors to include temperature, humidity, and radiant heat.  The DoD uses WBGT to evaluate the risk of heat-related injury to personnel and establish work and rest cycles to mitigate that risk, as outlined in AFI 48-141.  This is commonly known on military installations as heat stress flag conditions (green, yellow, red, and black flags). 

The campaign is part of a project run by the Range Commanders Council Meteorology Group (RCC MG) chaired by Mr. Dave Biggar, a 96 WS meteorologist. It involves data collection across fifteen diverse weather locations across the United States. The RCC MG is a subset of the Range Commanders Council, a government organization comprised of Air Force, Army, Navy, Space Force, NASA, and associate agencies dedicated to serving the needs of US test, training, and operational ranges.

 

The goal of this data collection campaign is to develop a method to estimate heat stress measurements without the need for specialized sensors.  At many bases, a single WBGT sensor is used by Bioenvironmental Engineering to measure the risk of heat-related injury for the entire installation.  If Eglin AFB still employed this method, the entire 727 square-mile land range would be required to adhere to the single reading on Eglin Main.  Weather conditions can vary greatly across the Eglin Range and in many instances, certain operations would be unnecessarily restricted. To resolve this issue, the 96 WS developed an algorithm to estimate WBGT from the 16 conventional weather sensors dispersed throughout the Range. The WBGT output is then converted to flag conditions and viewable on the 96 Test Wing’s (TW) Improved Weather Dissemination System (IWDS). This past year’s WBGT data collection effort will serve to improve the accuracy of Eglin’s current process.

An important component of the data collection campaign revolved around innovation.  In order to participate in the RCC MG’s campaign, 96 WS was required to purchase a standardized sensor system which measures unique WBGT parameters such as black globe temperature.  With the need to procure funds, Mr. Michael Scott, a 96 WS meteorologist, submitted a proposal to the 96th TW Innovation office. He was promptly awarded nearly nine thousand dollars to purchase the system and gave the ability for 96 WS press forward with data collection efforts.  The teamwork between the WS and the Innovation Office was crucial to moving at the “speed of relevance”.

The exact cost benefit of the data collection campaign will be determined in the future; however, it will undoubtedly improve DoD Range efficiencies across the entire United States.  At the end of the heat stress study, the WBGT sensor system can support other customers’ data queries and studies.  Additionally, the sensor could be used to backup standard airfield systems during events such as hurricane recovery and network outages.  Part of 96 WS’s mission is to integrate into Team Eglin’s warfighting missions, communicate weather impacts, and exploit them to gain advantages over our adversaries.  The data collection campaign with the portable WGBT sensor system is an example of this mission in action.

NOTE:  IWDS is web-based application accessible to all DoD common-access card holders: https://eglinweather.eglin.af.mil/Iwds/Index.aspx.