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War in Iraq: Weather Forecasting

Aired March 26, 2003 - 03:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go to Bob Franken now. He's at an air base near the Iraq border.

Good morning, Bob. Question for you. I know that you've seen a lot of action over the course of the war, but the weather is quite nasty today. Is that affecting things?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh is it. They -- for instance, in the last 24-hour reporting period, we're scheduled to have 300 flights come out of our air base. But the visibility was so bad it was cut by a third to under 200 and that has had an affect on the ground operations which, of course, themselves have been affected.

We, my cameraman, Jerry Simonson (ph), and I, were out with a group that was trying to get to this newly taken Iraq air base in the southern part of the country. Between the weather, which was stopping flights to some degree, and the fact that there was intense fire, we had to turn back. And so we are back here now and right in the middle of a sandstorm.

Now let us talk to the people who are tasked, to use the military term, to predict these things. These are two Air Force weather forecasters. Love to get the chance to talk to forecasters, except you guys are real right.

This is Sergeant Jared Ey and this is Sergeant Samuel Pugh.

We'll start with you, Jared. You were right on the money with this one, weren't you?

SGT. JARED EY, U.S. AIR FORCE METEOROLOGIST: I wouldn't say right on the money. I think we always miss a little -- a little bit of something. Yesterday, you know the winds were -- weren't quite as strong as we thought they'd be but pretty close. We got the rain, got the sand, I'd say we're pretty close -- sir.

FRANKEN: This is -- this is -- you're pretty popular around here because the weather is so important.

SGT. SAMUEL PUGH, U.S. AIR FORCE METEOROLOGIST: We definitely have been lately, that's for sure. Whenever the weather goes bad, we're pretty much the most popular people on base with all the questions and everything regarding how it's going to affect the mission. FRANKEN: Now one thing that I find very interesting, and we have a little instrument I want to show. First of all, I'll ask you, you were not getting good weather information from Iraq, but you're getting better weather information now, is that right?

EY: We're -- satellites are good to us.

FRANKEN: Yes, but you didn't have on-the-ground information, as I understand, and you do now. He's going to show us.

EY: We do have some more observations up there than we did in the past, yes -- sir.

FRANKEN: Well you know, Carol, how it is when the local weathercasters will say that up the road a piece they have somebody reporting in. Well that actually is what's going on in the military sense. As I understand it, Sam, now you have your meteorologist, which is what you are,...

PUGH: Sure (ph).

FRANKEN: ... meteorologist with the troops. And so they're able to send back information. And they use this instrument which is called...

PUGH: This is called a Kestrel 4000. They could be using an instrument similar to this. A very small, compact, give you a pretty wide variety of information from winds, even altimeter settings our aircraft can use and temperature, even heat stress. Will calculate for you things like that that the troops in the field can use and relay back to us for forecasts that we can provide for our customers and basically anybody in theater.

FRANKEN: You want to give us a tiny demonstration here?

PUGH: Well it's nothing too really exciting. I can pull up something here, push a couple of buttons, show you the temperature. I've got it set to wind speed right now, so it'll take me a second to get it back. Right now we're showing an altimeter setting of about 2988. The elevation is set right now at 438 feet, so that's the corrected pressure for our altitude.

FRANKEN: And this literally -- this little thing that goes around and around checks the wind speed, right?

PUGH: Exactly. Yes, that's exactly what it does. Just point it into the wind and hold it and get your readouts. It's pretty -- it's a little too simple to operate.

FRANKEN: And it's the kind of thing that is out there with the troops, a little bit of high technology.

All right, you see us on television and here is your chance, Mr. Weathercaster, to give the weather forecast for the next 24 hours.

EY: Next 24 hours, looking for dust, lots of dust. Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi, lots of dust throughout the whole entire hour. Have a bow (ph) pressure system moving through northern Iraq right now. Should give them some clouds and that's our forecast.

FRANKEN: And, Mr. Weathercaster 2, is it going to get better pretty soon?

PUGH: Slight improvement as far as visibility from this dust goes, but it's still just going to be dusty and windy for the next 24 hours anyway.

FRANKEN: Two points I want to make. No. 1, you see we're wearing jackets here, it's because it's cold. And we may as well saver this, because in less than a month, it's going to be extremely hot here and get hotter and hotter. The temperatures before they're through with the summer, I've been here, Carol, and they get to 130 degrees or so. It's not fun.

One other thing, one other bit of equipment that is a person's best friend in weather like this, it's these goggles. When you get out from out of these buildings, you've got to have them, particularly if you wear contact lenses like so many people do.

In any case, the weather forecast is here for the war to continue, at least for a while, hampered a bit by the sandstorm -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Bob Franken, many thanks to you, very interesting. Great technology out there, isn't there?


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