The high heat that White Sands Missile Range is known for during the summer months is monitored every minute by trained WSMR meteorologists to ensure the safety of members of the workforce working outside in the elements during the day.
WSMR Meteorologist Blaine Thomas said their organization must assess and communicate the level of safety to the workforce through a formula that determines the risk factor of the current temperature.
The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is what is used by many military agencies and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine how long someone can work outside before having to take a break.
Thomas said the WBGT measures the effects of temperature, humidity, wind speed, cloud cover, sun angles and how it affects solar radiation.
There are three instruments at Building 1830 that help determine the WBGT. The first is a standard air temperature, also known as a dry bulb temperature. The second is a natural wet bulb temperature reader where a cotton wick is immersed in water and it surrounds another thermometer. The temperature is read based on the winds that cool the cotton wick. The third is a black globe temperature where a thermometer is placed inside a copper sphere that is painted black. The last instrument measures how intense the solar radiation is on a Soldier in full equipment. The three instruments sit about four feet above the ground and take temperatures every minute.
The temperatures that are obtained by the three instruments are then input into a formula that gives them the WBGT, Thomas said. The WBGT is logged every minute after 10 a.m. until the end of the day.
An advisory is issued when the minimum threshold has been reached. The threshold for an alert to be sent out to the workforce is a WBGT of 82 degrees. Once the 82 degree threshold is reached, according to OSHA standards, employees must back down on outside work. If it is a light workload outside OSHA recommends 50 minutes of work followed by 10 minute breaks, a medium workload calls for 40 minutes of work and a 20 minute break and heavy outdoor work calls for 30 minutes of work and 30 minute breaks.
He said alerts are sent out for WBGTs between 82 and 89 degrees, which is Phase I, and when the WBGT reaches 90 degrees, Phase II. Once the 90 degree threshold is met the workload changes significantly to 10 minutes of work and a 50 minute break for a heavy workload.
“It should almost shutdown operations,” Thomas said.