Djibouti: American Meteorologists modernize Djibouti Airport weather installation

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Last week, service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force in the Horn of Africa installed an antenna at the Ambouli International Airport to facilitate meteorological information sharing between Camp Lemonier and local weather forecasters in Djibouti. The high-frequency, line-of-sight antenna is expected to help Djiboutian weather forecasters receive a steady stream of information from CJTF-HOA’s AN/TMQ-53 Tactical Meteorological Observing System.

The system is designed to assist weather teams through a collection of sensors via a computer. “We use an automated system, which basically means that every hour the sensor takes an observation,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ricardo Trevino, head of CJTF-HOA’s Meteorological and Oceanographic Department. “If weather conditions meet criteria for special observations, such as when it starts raining, when thunderstorms or lightening is detected or when the ceiling drops to a certain level, the sensor itself takes an automated observation.”

Trevino explains that, prior to the automated system, TMOS, which reduces the man-hours needed to take traditional weather observations, observations were “old fashioned”. This demanded “manual” use of “a thermometer, a pressure measuring device, and other atmospheric sensors and they hand write the observation.”

Showing appreciation for for the antenna, Osman Saad, chief of Aeronautical Services for Djibouti, said “the U.S. has very good techniques compared to our station here (…) We have classical instruments that we are still using. These are very, very old, so it is good to have this kind of assistance to put our station in a more modern situation.” He also added that the airport and CJTF-HOA have had a good relationship since American and Coalition forces settled in at Camp Lemonier more than five years ago.

Improving airport safety

Sharing TMOS data with Djiboutian weather forecasters will improve safety at the airport by generating a more comprehensive weather forecast. “Using this antenna Djiboutian weather forecasters will see additional information that they may not have, such as lightening detection. Our sensor will tell them exactly where the lightening was detected and how far downrange it was,” said Trevino. “They can use that as a forecast tool to see how storm cells are moving; for example, from the west-to-east, or east-to-west. Our unit also has a laser that it shoots up in the sky, and when it detects a cloud deck it tells you the exact height. Here the guys taking the observation have to estimate the height. So knowing that the sensor here tells them the exact height, they can compare and tweak the observations they are putting out.”

Arguing that the sharing of information between meteorologists — both in the U.S. and abroad — is crucial to ensuring a modern weather forecast,
David Giddens, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. and member of the Washington Air National Guard currently attached to CJTF-HOA’s METOC department, noted: “We wanted Djiboutians to have the ability to see the data that we are ingesting in order to better facilitate their ability to forecast weather for this area,” said Giddens. “Any time we can have an extra set of eyes on the current situation, meteorologically speaking, that just enables us to create a better forecast.”

The Ambouli Airport is also the site of Djibouti’s national weather forecast television studio which will use the information received from Camp Lemonier to keep their audience informed. “We need the weather data first for the airport, but also so we can give it to the public,” said Saad. “We can use this information to tell people what kind of weather they will be facing; if there will be cloud cover or storms approaching. Now we will be better prepared.”

Trevino emphasized that the cooperation between Djiboutian weather forecasters and CJTF-HOA METOC personnel is paramount. “They are the experts,” said Trevino. “They have been here for many years, and they know the climatology and the weather. It’s a win-win relationship. Not only is our aviation safety going to benefit, but also the host nation, and ultimately the forecasts that everybody puts out.”

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