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17th OWS member receives U.S. Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award

  • Published
  • By David R. Hopper
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

On July 24, 2020, Matthew Kucas, a member of the 17th Operational Weather Squadron assigned to the U.S. Air Force / U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was awarded the U.S. Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his innovative work on a two-week tropical cyclone outlook.

The technical expertise Kucas provided during the evolution of the outlook product from research and development, to testing and evaluation and finally operational implementation and training enabled JTWC to increase its average customer notification lead time for tropical cyclone formations in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command theater of operations by more than three days.

“I felt very grateful to my supervisor and the Navy chain-of-command at Joint Typhoon Warning Center and Fleet Weather Center San Diego for recognizing my contributions,” Kucas said. “I hope that my work partners and colleagues understand that the award reflects their continuous efforts as world-class, dedicated professionals as well.”

The objectives that Kucas and his colleagues were striving for included increasing first-notice times for tropical cyclone formations, improving consistency and timing of short-range weather advisories and maximizing accuracy in initial tropical cyclone warnings. Multiple people worked to make the project a success.

For instance, James Darlow, also a 17 OWS civilian employee assigned to JTWC, has provided extensive training and technical support to JTWC forecasters, and has contributed to the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) Global Tropics Hazards and Benefits Outlook forecasts since 2010.

“During the first several years of our collaboration with CPC, Mr. Darlow and I noted that CPC forecast processes and emerging forecasting techniques developed by a variety of research groups successfully identified potential Tropical Cyclone formation areas in many instances up to a week or more in advance,” Kucas said.  “In 2014, the Technical Services Team - Mr. Darlow and I - designed a process to identify potential Tropical Cyclone formation areas in the North Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean basins, up to a two-week lead time, on a daily basis in our ‘back office.’”

Because of the innovative work that Kucas and his colleagues have accomplished, JTWC forecasters began issuing two-week Tropical Cyclone Formation Outlooks for DoD and other U.S. Government customers operating within the extensive US INDOPACOM theater.

The project has also fostered collaboration between JTWC and external researchers and climate experts at CPC, the Naval Research Laboratory, the Naval Postgraduate School, Fleet Numerical METOC Center and the 14th Weather Squadron. The story for Kucas and his colleagues does not end there though, they have already set their gaze on a future project.

“We are processing pre-formation TC track and intensity forecast data to inform and potentially provide preliminary direction of motion and wind speed data to customers at a later date,” Kucas said. “Additionally, we are collaborating with the 16th Weather Squadron modeling team to integrate pre-formation forecast data from the Air Force’s premier global ensemble modeling capability, GALWEM-GE, into the mix to further improve product accuracy.”

“I am very proud of the work that Mr. Kucas has done with the Joint Typhoon Warning Center,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Zimmerman, 17 OWS commander. “The hard work that Mr. Kucas and his team have put into this project has the potential to save lives and significantly impact operations in this priority theater.”