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Instructor to have weather paper published
Capt. Eric Metzger, 335th Training Squadron instructor supervisor for the advanced weather courses, temporarily assigned to the 81st Training Group combined unit inspection preparation lead, edits group level brag books Oct. 5, 2012, at Matero Hall, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Metzger’s masters thesis paper is scheduled to be published in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Weather and Forecasting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
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Instructor to have weather paper published

Posted 10/10/2012   Updated 10/10/2012 Email story   Print story


by Steve Hoffmann
81st Training Wing Public Affairs

10/10/2012 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- When most of us look at clouds in the sky we can pick out funny shapes, animals, faces, Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea. But when Capt. Eric Metzger looks at clouds, he picks out research papers and has them published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Weather and Forecasting.

Metzger is an instructor supervisor for the advanced weather courses in the 335th Training Squadron. He is currently engaged in leading the 81st Training Group's effort in preparing for the consolidated unit inspection later this month. Once the inspection is over he will return to the schoolhouse to teach students about weather, a passion he's held his whole life.

"Weather has always been very fascinating to me. I grew up in western Kansas where the weather was never the same for more than a couple of days," Metzger noted. "Sometimes it would change so rapidly that it could be 80 degrees at lunchtime and by dinnertime it would be 20 degrees."

Metzger began his career in weather over 22 years ago after he graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the early 90's. He gained 10 years of valuable experience doing meteorological work before entering the Air Force.

"You get to certain point when you can walk outside and take a deep breath and say oh it's going to be a nice day or oh this is going to get ugly," said Metzger. "You learn how the atmosphere feels when it's not going to be a good day. It just comes from experience, something you can't teach."

But when Metzger entered the Air Force, it provided him opportunities for more responsibility and management that just wasn't available as a civilian.

Metzger then entered the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. which culminated with his thesis paper being accepted for publication.

"What I found in my master's thesis is what I didn't expect to find," Metzger noted.

The gist of the findings in Metzger's paper is how a cloud's lightning characteristics can hint at what it's going to do with wind, hail and possibly tornadic activity a good five to six minutes before radar.

According to Metzger's research, when a cloud's lighting switches rapidly from mostly in-cloud lightning to mostly cloud-to-ground lightning it means the fundamental structure of the cloud has also changed. Operational forecasters can use this to predict what a storm is going to do and get warnings out sooner than they would if they were just using radar.

"The paper's intent is to give operational forecasters tools to understand what lightning character means in order to predict what a storm is going to do," Metzger said.

Metzger is hoping to pursue a PhD through the Air Force Institute of Technology and focus his dissertation his findings in his thesis paper.

My dissertation will allow me to bring in more data, expand the scope of research and will bring me closer to being able to definitively say yes this is true or no it's not," added Metzger.

"Predicting tornadic activity would be the 'Rosetta Stone'. Because if you can get a jump on it by six minutes -- that's what I'm after. If I can get that definitive yes or no then that's what I'm going for. That would extremely useful to the Air Force. It could change the way we do things."

Metzger's paper is currently undergoing peer review and copy editing and is scheduled to be published in December or February.

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