Communicating the Weather:

The "Garske Chart"

by Major David L. Martens, USAF

bluebar1.gif (1497 bytes)

It is well understood that accurate weather information is essential to the Army's success on the battlefield. Armed with a good weather forecast, the battlefield commander can exploit the changing nature of the atmosphere to his advantage. Expert use of the weather can be a force multiplier that can turn defeat into victory and victory into rout.

However, it must be communicated in a simple, straightforward manner. Even the best weather forecast will be of little use if it cannot be effectively communicated to the commander and his staff. The weather teams supporting the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) employ an effective communications tool that can quickly put the maximum amount of weather intelligence into the hands of the division's key decisionmakers. This useful communications tool is known throughout the division as the "Garske Chart."


 Describing the Chart

Named after its developer, Master Sergeant Don Garske (U.S. Air Force), the Garske Chart displays 24 hours-worth of weather data and analysis required by the division staff. The chart shows a time evolution of weather elements deemed critical to planning the full range of division operations. On a single Garske Chart, a weather forecaster can display the day's solar and lunar data, as well as cloud cover, visibility, wind, and temperature forecasts. The Chart also provides space for remarks related to the weather effects on electro-optical weapons and night vision device usage.

By using this Chart, the battle staff can determine - in a single glance - what time the weather forecaster expects the fog to break, how low the cloud ceilings will be, and how high the temperature will be during the afternoon. During a briefing, the staff weather officer uses the Garske Chart as a jumping-off point to open a dialogue with the battle staff concerning the weather's effect on division missions. The chart is useful in determining the best time of day to launch an air assault or to schedule a reconnaissance flight to best minimize the negative effects of the weather on friendly operations.

To date, the Garske Chart has proven to be the most effective way to communicate critically needed weather information to the division staff. It fuses weather intelligence into the planning cycle to maximize the division's effectiveness in a frequently hostile and uncooperative environment. Using the Garske Chart, the division battle staff is determined to make "Mother Nature" an asset and an ally in its quest for battlefield dominance.

p25_101.jpg (73575 bytes)

Figure 1.   The Garske Chart

Interpreting the Chart

The Garske Weather Chart (see Figure 1) is normally prepared in color. When this article is loaded on the Internet, it will have the full-color chart. The chart includes the following data:

        SKC (sky clear) refers to a cloudless sky.

        FEW refers to cloud coverage of 1/8-2/8 of the sky.

        SCT (scattered) refers to clouds present in 3/8-4/8 of the sky.

        BKN (broken) refers to cloud coverage in 5/8-7/8 of the sky.

OVC (overcast) refers to solid clouds (over 8/8). A cloud level (in hundreds of feet) of 005 indicates that the base of the cloud is at 500 feet, 030 is 3,000 feet, and 200 means that the base of the clouds is at 20,000 feet above sea level.



The "Screaming Eagle" Weather Chart was developed as a tool for use in the mission planning process. It depicts all of the weather data significant to Army operations for a 24-hour period. Most importantly, it allows the commander to determine, at a glance, how the weather will influence future operations.

Major David Martens is the Director of Weather Operations at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and also serves as the Staff Weather Officer in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He has served as a Weather Officer in the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah, and the Operations Officer, Seventh Air Force Weather Support Unitat, Osan Air Base, Korea. MAJ Martens worked in the Readiness Support Section of the Environmental Technical Applications Center, Scott AFB, Illinois, where he co-authored a study of the climatology of South America. He returned to Korea in 1994 to serve as officer in charge of the Theater Forecast Unit, Yongsan Army Installation, Seoul, Korea. He has a bachelor of science degree in Meteorology from the State University of New York at Oswego and has a master of science degree in Climatology from Utah State University. Readers may contact him via E-mail at [email protected] and telephonically at (502) 798-2519 or DSN 635-2519.