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Weather forecasting for military operations

MMU forecaster briefing an officer

From Afghanistan to the Falklands Islands, Met Office forecasters provide vital weather information for military operations.

You may think the weather would be easy to predict in Afghanistan during the summer - consistently hot, dry and sunny. But Met Office forecasters in Camp Bastion have a number of challenges when developing specialist forecasts for the airfield and the rest of Helmand.

As well as being trained meteorologists, our forecasts within the Mobile Met Unit have detailed knowledge of the impact weather and the environment has on military operations - and being able to communicate this advice in a way that enables timely and accurate decisions to be made to meet the challenges faced in theatres of conflict makes a huge difference to operations.

The Mobile Met Unit - a sponsored reserve unit of the RAF has a team of 70 men and women from the Met Office working alongside deployed UK and allied forces. The advisors in the MMU have all undergone military training over and above their meteorological training and have the knowledge and experience required to understand the unique challenges faced on the frontline.

Our team currently deployed at Camp Bastion work in 12 hour shifts, gathering their weather information from the UK Met Office, from which they look at current local conditions and calculate a range of specialist forecasts. One of the biggest challenges is wind speed. Strong winds quickly whip up dust storms and in a space of 30 minutes visibility can go from ten kilometres to 500 metres. This can have a huge impact on operations in theatre.

In this video RAF reservist Sqn Ldr Mike Steer from the Met Office talks about his role in Helmand.

Simon King, who was also based in Camp Bastion, tells British Services News about the role of weather forecasters in theatre, and talks through some of the forecasting equipment they use on site.

As well as working in operational theatres our forecasters also work closely with our armed forces at bases in the UK and overseas, from Cyprus and Germany to the Falklands.

The weather in the Falklands is a big talking point and it has had a huge bearing on operations since 1982. It is not unusual to experience all four seasons in one afternoon. With quick reaction alert fighter jets, support aircraft and helicopters flying all the time - it is a tough but important job to get the forecast right. British Forces News talked to the Met Office forecasters on the Island about the work they do to keep on top of the changing conditions.

All in all the Met Office plays a key role in Defence services and other environmental factors on their operations. By understanding and interpreting environmental impacts we provide relevant and timely advice direct to military decision-makers. Our world-leading range of tools and systems are used not only by the UK but by allied countries and coalition partners around the world.

Last updated: Sep 26, 2012 1:05 PM