The weather forecasting challenge for meteorologists at the ATEC ranges is to provide guidance for both tactical and strategic decisions. Ensuring safety of personnel and test operations is the primary focus of very short–term, 0 – 2 h weather forecasting (i.e., nowcasting). Another important aspect of weather forecasting is to find "windows of opportunity" throughout a day when range customers may expect weather conditions favorable for conducting their tests and minimizing weather–related downtime periods. Forecasters also assist their range customers in scheduling tests months in advance, which requires providing climatological information about the local weather conditions. For further details see Saxen et al. (2008).
A forecast product for the potential of storms to produce lightning has been developed and deployed at WSMR and EPG.
The AutoNowCaster (ANC) system is the primary tool used operationally by forecasters for monitoring and nowcasting of thunderstorm activity at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). The ANC system is a component of the ATEC Four-Dimensional Weather (4DWX) system, which is used by Army meteorologists to provide overall meteorological support. Partial ANC systems (so-called AN-Lite systems) that provide extrapolation-only forecasts are operational at other ATEC test centers as well, including the Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) in Maryland, the Redstone Technical Test Center (RTTC) in Alabama, Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) in Utah, and the Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) and Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in Arizona. The forecast skills of the AN-Lite systems does not reach the performance level of a full ANC system, but a lack of or limited access to relevant observations currently prevents upgrades to full ANC systems at ATEC ranges other than WSMR.
Lightning is a particular safety concern at the ranges. A forecast product for the potential of storms to produce lightning has been developed and deployed at WSMR and EPG. This product provides lead times of approximately 5 – 15 min before lightning occurs. An example of this product is depicted together with vertical cross sections through storms. The red polygons enclose storms deemed capable of producing lightning (the lightning strikes that occurred within the next 20 min are shown by the red crosses).